Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Book Review: 'American Exodus' by J.K. Franks

Georgia author JK Franks specializes his writing skills on the post-apocalyptic genre with three novels published to date – CATLYST DOWNWARD CYCLE, KINGDOMS OF SORROW, and AMERICAN EXODUS. According to Franks, “Really interesting things happen to people when it all goes sideways. Good dystopian stories just peel away all pretenses of civilized behavior and societal norms. What’s left when you expose all that is just rich characters with raw human needs and wants. This provides an opportunity for a writer to really tell an honest story.”

JK speaks directly to us as the book opens – a touch that indicates that an author not only cares about the structure and detail of the novel, but also the reader’s response and willingness to inhabit the world we are about to enter. ‘When I was developing the Catalyst series, the idea of a connected novella wasn’t part of the plan. That changed when I was asked a relatively simple question. “What would you do to get home if the CME happened, and you were a thousand miles from home?” From that, this story was born. At its heart, it is a simple “get home” journey, but embedded in it are clues to more of the Catalyst stories. I have written this in-between writing book one, two and now book three, so this book is influenced by all of those but is a standalone story. Fans of the series will see threads from the other books, and in some cases, rather similar situations dealt with in a very different manner. This story takes place essentially during the same time period as the first book—Downward Cycle. Revisiting the aftermath of that disaster I first wrote of several years ago was more fun than I probably should admit. It was also nice to explore the struggle to survive from a different point of view as well as visit scenes we may have only glimpsed in the earlier books.’

AMERICAN EXODUS is a bristlingly fine book, one of the best CME (Coronal Mass Ejection) post apocalyptic this reader has read. Not only is the prose dignified but the character development is so keen that we the reader can almost see and feel the characters as they struggle to return to a ‘place’ that will mean normalcy or home.

JK summarizes the plot well – ‘One man’s desperate journey to get home in a post-apocalyptic world. Steven Porter had a mostly charmed life, one that most people would envy, that is, until it all vanished. He was far from home on the day his world changed forever. How far does the devastation reach – the whole country, the world? Millions of people are fleeing the cities trying to find safety. Steve finds himself as one of those lost souls wandering the highways. Each step forward is fraught with peril. What will he find if he even makes it back home? To survive the dangerous journey he must battle hunger, thirst and the relentless attacks by others as well as brutal response by our government that raises more questions than answers. What’s left of his world? Normal is a fading memory, survival is all that matters. His challenge is simple, adapt or die.’

After reading this book the first word that come to min is Splendid! Writing of this order is too rarely encountered and even for those who usually avoid post-apocalyptic stories, this one is so well conceived and written that it supersedes genre and is simply fine writing. And the quiet message of survival in a world that seems shattered is most appropriate at this time ….! Grady Harp, February 18
I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book.

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.