Saturday, July 21, 2018

The Bookwym's Review of Dancing in the Dust by Gwendolyn Pendraig

Author: Gwendolyn Pendraig

Length: 172 Pages/ 6 hours, 28 mins (Audio)

Release Date: March 20, 2017/ May 20, 2018 (Audio)

Narrator: Karin Allers

In a not too distant future that bears a resemblance to The Handmaid's Tale, religious fundamentalists have been voted in to power in the US, and quickly discard many of the freedoms Americans enjoy, especially cracking down on women's freedom.  It basically looks like the worst of Saudi Arabia's suppression of women, where men rule over the women. This would have continued, except the Dust falls, and everything changes.

When the dust clouds come, almost all the humans get sick and die horribly of a plague like sickness. It happens so suddenly that the worlds governments are caught flat footed and have no chance to stop it. Society falls apart, becoming something Mad Max would be familiar with. This is the world Ayla grows up in, fending for herself, from a young teen to her mid 20's, when the story starts. She has trained herself to be able to hunt and defend herself against the lawless bandits that survived the plague like she did. While not huge in number, she is alone, so she is careful to keep hidden and build up supplies and weapons. She has even gained a new companion, a large dog that's much more than it seems. Unfortunately, things are about to change for the worse.

After being discovered by a group of men, Ayla is captured and is tortured sexually and physically. Keeping her cool in her worst case scenario, she manages to escape and What follows in a crazy conclusion that would make any post apocalyptic warrior proud, as she tries to defeat her new enemies while keeping herself alive and somewhat sane. This all leads to a surprising conclusion, as we see that the men were not some isolated scavengers, but a part of something larger and much more sinister. We also see that changes to the people of the world are coming, changing what it means to be human.

I have enjoyed the wide variety of Post Apoc stories that have made a resurgence lately, and Dancing in the Dust is no exception. In fact, it has some very creative settings and characters. Ayla is an excellent character. I've seen reviews saying she's an anti-hero. In a world with no heroes, where its every person for themselves, I'd say she's no hero or anti-hero, just a survivor. She is also not in any way the dreaded Mary Sue. She struggles, she makes mistakes, and while she is strong, its through years of training and surviving in the harshest crucible imaginable, life with no rules at all, to the strongest and quickest and most clever goes the spoils. Is it a perfect book? No. Occasionally Ayla does some things that are head scratchers, but that's probably to be expected in such tense conditions. The secondary characters aren't spectacularly rounded out, but that's more a function of the books length and their parts in it than anything else. Still, it is excellently plotted, paced and executed, and Ayla is in that group of Post Apoc warriors you'd want at your back if society ever fell apart.

The narration was handled by Karin Allers. She did a good job of using tone and inflection to differentiate the characters. Her voice is such that there was not a huge variety of male voices, but there are enough in any scene to be able to tell who is who. Her narration is steady, and she doesn't fall back into a monotone, keeping the action moving along. Overall, a solid effort, and I would definitely recommend this book whole heartedly.

Warning: The rape scenes in this book are fairly graphic, as is the violence. They really pull no punches, so fair warning.

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