Here’s something of a gem of a book I’d almost forgotten about, one which I first read 15 or more years ago. I was reminded of it by discussion following my list of post-apocalyptic novels. Z for Zachariah was a text we studied in school, one of those ones you read and reread and pick apart until you find it mind-numbingly banal. But there’s a reason it was worthy studying – it’s a great character study, with a purposefully subtle story.
As a post-apocalyptic novel, it effectively captures the mood of loneliness and isolation that sole-survivor sixteen-year-old Ann must endure. Living in a valley with it’s own climate, after the bomb and the gas, Ann dreams of finding other survivors and repopulating the world. What she discovers, though, is that there are worse things than being alone.
When John Loomis wanders into her life, he brings a world of uncertainty with him. Is he a murderer, does he want to imprison and dominate Ann? What can she do to survive in such tight conditions? Her lonely valley quickly becomes overpopulated with the presence of one other person, and with him comes all sorts of questions about the characters’ age and gender divisions, the evils of science and what it takes to get on with someone you don’t especially like.
It’s worth reading, a creepy story with enough ambiguity to make you ponder. It’s a tense ride, as it has to be considering it’s a whole novel about two people running circles around each other in a dreary little pocket of land. Both main characters have their imperfections, making them very humanly fleshed out. What you ultimately have is a post-apocalyptic novel that answers the question: “What if there were only two people left in the world, and one was a bit immature and the other was a bit of a dick?”
If that question doesn’t interest you then you probably won’t like this book. Otherwise, check it out here.