Wednesday, July 29, 2009

One by Conrad Williams


One by Conrad Williams
Virgin Books 2009-07-29
ISBN: 978-0-7535-1810-6
363 Pages


Richard Jane is a deep sea welder. While at work the end of the world happens.

This is a hard book to explain but the basic storyline is: Richard Jane gets to shore and walks the long road back to London. He wants to see his son, he is sure his son is still alive and through out the book we get to experience his life with his son.

Along the way he meets up with a number of survivors, an Australian couple who constantly bicker and the wife goes nuts; an elderly British couple (their role in the book is short lived but required); Becky and her young ward, Aiden (who has a blood disease). There are thugs and druggies, a strange girl in white who decides to follow Richard and a few other people along the way, including zombie! Yay! But these zombies are called Skinners and I won’t say what they really are.

The book is broken into two parts: Births, Deaths and Marriages and Lazarus Taxon.

Book one is all about Richard Jane’s (herein after called Jane as in the book) trek to London and the many problems that arise. Book two (ten years) Jane is in London as part of a resistance kind of outfit. Skinners are the main problem. They are blind but all other senses are heightened. Oh, and there’s a Lion on the loose, rats are not afraid of humans and will feed on sleeping adults. There is rumour of a raft and once confirmed a huge exodus take place. It seems as if there are hundreds of hundreds of people still kicking around in London.

Conrad Williams is an awesome writer, his words flow smoothly and hours can pass without your knowledge as the pages keep turning. But, and it’s a big one. Stuff just happens in the middle of a paragraph. Other scenes are not described clearly, especially the last scene leading to the war and the explosion, because stuff just happens off the cuff, in the middle of something else. There’s no lead up, no build up and maybe that is what Conrad was going for, but to this reader it was confusing and many times I had to go back and re-read the last few pages trying to find the start point that hints at the coming event--but there is none.

Jane is a man driven to keep breathing in the hope of one day seeing his son. He won’t accept the fact the boy could be dead, he refuses to accept it. He has hallucinations and dreams of his son and he talks out loud to the non-existent child.

The end is as you would expect, but it is a chocker moment (yes a near tear jerker), because Jane is such a rounded character driven by a basic need to find his son.

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