Thursday, March 16, 2017

A Post-Apocalyptic Dystopia I Can Actually Enjoy

Here it is, people. My last post on this year's Cybils YA Speculative Fiction finalists. This is definitely a last, but not least, situation. This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab was the first of the finalists I read. It was a good introduction.

One of the things I liked about this fantasy/scifi (what is apocalyptic fiction, anyway?) is that instead of front loading the story with  world building, it begins with a scene that could appear in a nonfantasy book. The scene involved a girl burning down a church at a boarding school, so, sure, it wouldn't appear in just any nonfantasy book. But my point is, the book begins with a realistic (and intriguing) opening that helps pull readers like myself, who don't love fantasy for the sake of fantasy, into the story.

The publisher compares this book to the work of Holly Black, Maggie Stiefvater, and Laini Taylor. But This Savage Song reminded me much more of Jonathan Maberry's Rot and Ruin. Both are post-apocalyptic novels that don't rely on cliched totalitarian political mumbo jumbo. Instead, whatever caused society to fall involves the rising of...creatures...beings. In the case of Rot and Ruin, we're talking zombies. With This Savage Song, we're talking monsters that are "born" from the violent acts that caused human deaths. In these books, the human characters are trying to maintain a normal life with a town in the middle of a zombie frontier or a high school in the middle of a protected city. It's not their political leaders holding them down. It's a real, physical threat from outside. Not that there aren't some human issues. There's the question in both these books of just who is the real monster here?

This Savage Song, like Illuminae, the Cybils winner in this category, has a neat little gender twist. Kate is much more of an anti-hero than August is. He is more of a family person. I've seen a number of YA books over the years with a male protagonist who has father issues. In This Savage Song, it's Kate who has them. Both Kate and August are filling roles traditionally played by members of the opposite sex.

Okay, that's it. My 2017 Cybils experience is over.


Sarah Stevenson said...

Sounds intriguing! I'll definitely have to read this one. I still have a soft spot for post-apocalyptic dystopias, even with the glut of them out there.

Gail Gauthier said...

I think a sequel is already out. Not sure.