Sunday, 1 April 2012

The Other Life by Susanne Winnacker

I don’t remember how I came across this book but it came onto my radar at some point late last year and I soon put it on pre-order. If I’m honest, I think I was probably attracted to the cover more than the description in this case. I say this because it was only after I’d ordered it that I read a review mentioning zombies and I reacted with a moment of pure horror. The trauma of The Forest of Hands and Teeth apparently lingers on. Of course, if you actually pay attention to the synopsis, it’s fairly obvious that there’s going to be some sort of mutant creature involved. So I put my YA zombie prejudices to one side, picked up the book and hoped for the best.

Title: The Other Side
Series: The Other Life #1
Author: Susanne Winnacker
Publisher: Usborne
Target Audience: YA
Pages: 320
PoV: 1st person
Tense: Past tense

Story: 3 years, 1 month, 1 week and 6 days since I’d seen daylight. One-fifth of my life. 98,409,602 seconds since the heavy, steel door had fallen shut and sealed us off from the world 

Sherry has lived with her family in a sealed bunker since things went wrong up above. But when they run out of food, Sherry and her dad must venture outside. There they find a world of devastation, desolation...and the Weepers: savage, mutant killers. 

When Sherry's dad is snatched, she joins forces with gorgeous but troubled Joshua - an Avenger, determined to destroy the Weepers. 

But can Sherry keep her family and Joshua safe, when his desire for vengeance threatens them all?

(from Goodreads)

Thoughts and impressions: First of all, this book is vastly superior to the story in The Forest of Hands and Teeth, at least for me. TFoHaT scarred me, this one entertained me. I didn’t want to cause anyone bodily harm when I finished this book – yey! However, that does not mean that it’s great.

I liked the idea of what the Weepers are (the Weepers being the transformed humans who hunt other humans to eat their flesh). I liked that there were some that were more animal than human but others that had retained their intelligence. I liked that they were still reminiscent of typical zombies with their flesh falling off. I really liked the conspiracy theory introduced, though unfortunately it was only introduced at the end and didn’t receive much attention as the author set the scene for the second book, which will (I suspect) look into it more. This said, I’m not entirely sure that this book was the time to introduce that. It felt a bit rushed and it was a completely different note to everything that had come before.

I also liked how Winnacker took the time to set the scene of how her world ended up the way it did. Usually in dystopians, the author just presents the broken world and the reader has no choice but to go with the flow. In The Other Life, the protagonist, Sherry, lived through the breakdown of her society so the reader is also aware of what went wrong where and why, what role those in power played in it all, and what the results of the decisions made are for the survivors. Before each chapter, there is a short excerpt of a scene in Sherry’s life before things went wrong. These provided a contrast with the bleak present that Sherry finds herself in and I thought that these were a really engaging touch.

The relationship between Joshua and Sherry is not rushed or diminished by claims of undying love between the two. The start of it seemed a bit advanced but to say that they’d just met but this can be justified by the very different world and the fact that Joshua had just saved Sherry’s life. It becomes calmer after that and is allowed to evolve at a very natural pace, which is something that I really appreciate in books. The novel is written in Sherry’s voice and she admits that she’s unsure of what goes on in Joshua’s head – considering his past and how he put her in danger a couple of times because of his drive to hunt the hunters, I can understand her reluctance that shadows her attraction to him.

My main gripe with the book is that it felt rather… I’m not sure of the word for it. It’s very short and I felt as though I didn’t really get the full story I wished for. I really enjoyed what I got but I felt that it focused a lot on the action to the detriment of the character development. I wanted to get to know all of the characters better. Rachel, in particular, is named as being one of the characters that will be central in the next book and I’m not entirely sure whether she even gets one line of dialogue in this book. She’s just a presence. I have no idea who she is or what her history is.

A few times, Sherry mentions how many seconds it’s been since event X happened. I’m not entirely sure that I bought that. Either she’s incredibly good at maths or it’s too forced. I could never work out how many seconds it’s been since I did X, Y or Z off the top of my head. It was an interesting touch but it was overused and lost its impact as numbers were rattled off for various things on a fairly frequent basis.

Finally, Sherry mentions that her grandma never stops knitting and has not run out of wool in all the time since they went underground. I’m not entirely sure the author realises how much wool can be used while knitting. I can easily get through a 100g ball in 5 hours, and I’m not that fast at knitting so grandma would be getting through at least 2 balls a day. I highly doubt that they will have taken so much wool with them (if grandma got through two 100g balls a day she would have used up 2278 balls by the day they run out of food and Sherry mentions that she still has a lot of wool to get through). But maybe I’m nit-picking here.

The idea behind the story is really inspired and has an awful lot of promise. The hints of what’s to come in the second book are tantalising. I feel like the book could have been better but I still enjoyed it for what it was. It has restored some of my faith in YA zombie books!

Style: Fairly simple but very engaging. I finished the book in only a couple of hours and part of that was due to how drawn in I was by the style.

Final verdict: I really enjoyed what the story offered but I found myself wishing for something more from it too. I read it very quickly and would have preferred it to be a bit longer with more focus on character growth. I will definitely be reading the sequel. 3 stars.

Extra notes: Some bad language. No sex.

1 comment:

  1. LOL! The trauma of The Forest of Hands and Teeth still lingers?! I checked out that review yesterday, and I totally agree with you, it's traumatic. I wouldn't go anywhere near another zombie book if I had read that book. You are definitely braver than I am. I've heard that Susanne Winnacker is a good author, but I'm not feeling this book (especially with the zombie thing going on. I hate zombies). I'm probably NOT going to read this book. 3 stars isn't enough for me to read a book I already didn't want to read. But, thanks for the review!!!

    Alyssa Susanna


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