Gonsalves proves adept at keeping readers on edge—even uncomfortable— with unexpected twists and jolts of graphic action, all set against the ugliness of a vividly realized post-apocalyptic world that no one would want to live in. Subnorms are tortured to force their abilities to the surface, in the hopes of grooming them into super-soldiers, though if they are deemed too dangerous the government gives them radiation treatment to remove their psychic powers. Gonsalves’s descriptions are haunting, and life outside the government buildings isn’t much better—the land is mostly dead, and continual radiation damages everything in sight. Once the travelers cross the “Risk Zone” in their efforts to survive, they encounter unspeakable trauma.
Gonsalves’s characters exhibit intricate personalities and complicated lives, not breaking down into simple binaries of good and evil. Moral dilemmas abound, and even those who strive to do the right thing regularly question what that is. Gonsalves’s background in pediatric oncology shines in his creation of child characters who are rich in complexity and deal with their harsh realities in unique ways, and fans of dark, dystopian fantasy will root for them to find their happy ending. This harrowing story will stick with readers long after the last page.
Takeaway: A nightmarish, post-apocalyptic journey of one man who is willing to risk it all to save his powerfully gifted nephew.
Great for fans of: C.A. Fletcher’s A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World, William B. Forstchen’s One Second After.
Design and typography: A-
Marketing copy: A