A couple of weeks ago, my mum returned from the weekly Tesco shop and came into the middle room, where I’m usually glued to my laptop. She dropped a book on the desk. “I picked this up in Tesco.” The price tag on it was something like £1.97. I glanced at the blurb, and saw why she’d brought it. See, ever since my parents started watching The Walking Dead, Mum has latched onto anything zombie or apocalypse related. And I figured, why not? I started reading.
And couldn’t put the book down.
White Horse tells the story of Zoe, a woman making her way through Europe once the world has ended. From the beginning, Adams plants questions in your mind of where the story is going; we know Zoe worked at a laboratory, and we find out she worked at Pope Pharmaceuticals as a cleaner. Although the text doesn’t make it clear, anyone who knows anything about apocalypse stories is probably already wondering what Pope Pharmaceuticals’ actual role is in the disease named ‘White Horse’. Because, come on, there has to be a link there somewhere, right?
Then, of course, there’s the question of the jar, mysteriously appearing in Zoe’s flat one day. The jar itself prompts Zoe to go see Dr Nick Rose, and even in his first appearance it’s clear that there’s something between him and Zoe.
Throughout, Adams shows us glimpses of Zoe’s past and present, separated with the simple words Then and Now. Although the ‘then’ sections sometimes jump a bit further ahead than last ones, the progression of the story is always easy to follow, and Adams skilfully spreads the seeds of questions with every bit of text.
We follow Zoe as she treks through Italy, meeting and picking up other survivors on the way. The characterisation of these people is done brilliantly. All of them are seen through Zoe’s eyes, and they remain solid and realistic; some are naïve, others more world-weary, but all of them are aiming for the same thing; survival.
One of the things that really endured me to Zoe was her relentless grip on her humanity. She doesn’t let herself become jaded by what has happened to the world, and there’s always the touch of optimism to her, which remains despite everything but never comes across as naïve. And the emotions are really carried through the book; you feel the hope of these characters, their despair, and desperately want them to reach their goals.
I really wasn’t expecting much from the book, but I was pleasantly surprised. So much so that when I glimpsed ‘Red Horse’ near the end of the book, along with a sample prologue, I couldn’t help but feel extremely pleased that the book had a sequel.
The story itself, the settings, characters and even the effects of the disease are all original, even if it seems at first to be just another apocalypse story. It’s a book that will keep you gripped from start to finish, and a brilliant book if you’re looking for a slightly different end of the world.