This was the feeling of being part of the food chain.– Hanna Jameson.
It has been difficult to gather my feeling upon this book and place the into a review that actually makes sense, as I have conflicting emotions towards it as a whole.
The story takes place from the perspective of Jon Keller, an american historian staying at an isolated hotel in Switzerland while attending an academic conference. While there, the bombs begin to fall. Nuclear war has broken out, and all across the globe entire cities and countries are being decimated. While many people flee, Jon and a small group of others choose to stay in the so far unaffected hotel. With the internet gone, and no way to contact others, the hotel becomes full with sinister anticipation of what is going on elsewhere in the world. Unable to reach out to his wife and children, Jon spends his time documenting exactly what is going on amongst those remaining at L’Hotel Sixieme, encountering horrific murders and sickening insanity. These notes are what you read throughout the novel.
Overall, I found this book thrilling and extremely original. Each chapter leaves you unsettled, but you never really know why. The writing is dripping with suspense and never fails to remind you that after the instances that occur nothing is reliable. The roots of this story are built on it being scarily plausible, and that feeling is only amplified with the knowledge that this was written after the controversial american election in 2016.
The post-apocalyptic setting was claustrophobic and convincing, and Jameson cleverly encapsulated a world where there is no order – a world where there is no consequences. Her writing is dark and gripping and executed in a manner that makes it feverishly believable. That being said, I still have a few issues with it that led to me not enjoying the novel as much as I could have done.
The main character, Jon, I found to be very unlikable. While I’m led to believe that his character is made like this purposefully, perhaps to make the story more realistic, or intensify how the character’s perspective changed during the end of the world, I don’t think it had the desired effect on me as a reader. It simply made me not want to pick up the book again, for fear of accidentally punching this -fictional- character in the face. This contradiction with the captivating writing was difficult to get my head around, and led to some pretty odd reading schedules on my part. I felt really uncomfortable during certain reoccurring instances in the book: moments when you were manipulated into feeling sorry for Jon. In general I think he was a disgusting man who ruined his relationship with his wife to have affairs with 20 year old students of his, and I don’t understand why any of that specific plotline was necessary to the story. His relationship with his family is clearly strained, but the reasons behind his secret perverted relationships are never revealed. In fact, a lot of subtle bias is demonstrated throughout due Jon writing it himself.
Elements of the text come across extremely sexist and patriarchal, and women are often treated and talked of as objects. There were some really strong and potentially influential female characters within this story, but I thought in many cases they were dismissed, and whittled down to just what Jon, a close-minded, middle-aged man, viewed them as.
I also found the ending to be particularly unfulfilling. Most post-apocalyptic stand-alone stories follow a pattern of ending with the world still broken, but with a newfound hope of repairing it, and going to some sort of new normality. I would say this ending vaguely resembles that, but it just wasn’t… right. It didn’t give too little or too much, it was just overall not a satisfying end, and not in the same way as when your favourite book ends on a cliffhanger. Its not something that really provokes exciting thoughts of what might happen next, at least not for me.
To conclude, I found the majority of the story enjoyable to read, and I’ll be looking into whether Jameson has any other books, but many problems arise for me with the portrayal of the characters, male or female. I would still recommend this book however, as I have never read anything even similar to it. The writing was beautiful and atmospheric, and truly very convincing. I won’t be rereading it anytime soon however.
Anywayz, peace out homiez