Friday, April 19, 2013

After The Ending (The Ending #1) by Lindsey Fairleigh and Lindsey Pogue

It's flu season and so people are slowly getting sick. As with every year, there are deaths involving the very young and seniors but when the flu suddenly becomes more virulent, otherwise perfectly healthy adults start to die. It quickly becomes clear that the world is in a pandemic, which just might mean the end of the world as we know it. Those who do survive the mega flu are the people who have already had HINI.  As they climb out of their sickbeds, they learn that for some, survival has benefits - that's right, shiny super abilities like talking to animals or the ability to sense people's emotions and read minds.

Zoe and Dani are on opposite coasts and childhood best friends for evah.  Fortunately, both survive the massive flu and decide to cross the country and meet in the middle.  Both travel with military personnel as they struggle to survive.  After the Ending, basically shifts between the POV of these two women.

Zoe and Dani are both 26 but from the way they are written, their behaviour reads closer to 16 or 17.  Of course they are both stunningly beautiful, not skanks (unlike any other woman who is hot for their man) or fat (cause totes fat people are all disgusting)  They keep in touch with each other via email.  There is barely any gas, electricity and running water are touch and go at best but nothing can keep the world wide web down.  I understand Fairleigh and Pogue's desire to have communication between the two women but having them communicate through email meant a lot of repetition and made this book longer than it needed to be.  It would have been much better to have them agree upon a meeting place before leaving their homes and then shifting the POV that way. 

Dani and Zoe both engage in sex and are sexual beings.  Though they are confidant about their desires, neither of them has any problem with using anti woman slurs every time they are angry. CeCe for instance is a "super skank", as well as a "psycho skank" By far however, the slur used most often is bitch, with 42 different occurrences.  There are no male equivalents to these words but no man, regardless of his behaviour were written in any way a problematic as the women in this story.  Jason who clearly has a long sexually history cannot be slut shamed because he's just so damn handsome and it's natural from him to sleep around.  No matter what a man does, it is never attributed to his gender or his sexuality but the women of After The Ending have no such luck.

By far one of the most disturbing characters is Mandy - the so-called prophet of a group of survivors.  She has the ability to control people and make them feel peaceful.  She uses this to keep male sexual slaves. Mandy is not only fat, she's hideously ugly.

The middle chair was larger than the other two, as was its occupant.  She was obese, or what Grams used to call 'dumpy' out of kindness, and had a splotchy face that was simultaneously round and saggy, Her sheer unattractiveness was at odds with the two gorgeous shirtless men kneeling on either side of her chair, petting her arms, hands, legs, and whatever else they could reach.

Every time she is referred to Mandy is described as fat and hideous. Her body is described as lumpy with folds.  Unlike all of the other women, Mandy is so fat and disgusting that she has to be a rapist because no man could possibly be interested in her.  This is what tips Zoe off that something is wrong.  Fairleigh and Pogue do make the point that Mandy's actions are based in a desire for power, which is what rape is really all about but the constant juxtapostion with the supposed horror that is Mandy's body speaks not only of power but that people like Mandy are naturally deficient which causes this sort of behaviour.  One does not have to be physically undesirable to be a rapist.

When Pogue and Fairleigh attempt to discuss sexual objectification of women they get that wrong as well.  If two people are engaged in sexual behaviour, it is absolutely natural to fantasize.  This is not objectification and to have described as such, makes me believe that neither author understands what the term really means.  Objectification is women are used as props, or simply reduced to sexual objects. It made Dani appear absolutely ridiculous. 

CeCe was the major character of colour and as aforementioned, she was hardly described in glowing terms.  There were also no GLBT characters which is common is dystopians but still highly problematic.  What is it about end of the world scenarios that mean GLBT are unable to survive?  Beyond the hideous anti-woman language, ableism is the most engaged in ism.  Many survivors are described as "crazies".  These "crazies" are violent, cannot be reasoned with and kill without reason. If you think that sounds like every negative stereotype associated with people who are neurologically atypical, you would be correct.   Having these people continually casually described as "crazies" ignores the fact that someone who is neurologically atypical far more likely to be a danger to themselves than others but these is ignored to push this limiting, oppressive and harmful trope. It is interesting to note that though these "crazies" were the sole representation of disability, none of the characters who had lost most or all of their family or had been forced to kill exhibited signs of PTSD.  This would have been a far more accurate and realistic approach to disability but it was ignored to push the idea that unless controlled, so-called crazy people will kill you.  And no, sadness at the loss of a loved one is not the same as PTSD.

For all of the social issues I have mentioned with After The Ending, it was entertaining.  In many ways it reminded me of Stephen King's The Stand.  It had survivors dealing with what happens when the majority of the population is killed off due to a massive flu and their struggle to survive.  There was a strong sense of desperation.  The idea was absolute excellent, though the writing did at times let it down.  After The Ending, ended with a cliffhanger which specifically created a hook for the upcoming second novel.  I for one am not a fan of the cliffhanger because it depends on unresolved issues to draw in a reader rather than the uniqueness of the story, well drawn characters, or solid writing.  It's a device and After The Ending deserved better than this.  I intend to read the second book in this series mainly because I want to see what happens to the characters and not because of the quality of the writing itself.  

A copy of this book was received through Netgalley