A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
Don’t judge a book by its cover.
While, undoubtedly this *should* be true, in reality we all do it. Yes, even me. I therefore make a conscious effort to read the first few pages of every ARC that falls onto my desk. On occasion this will lead to surprises.
Nothing surprised me more than The Other Life by Susanne Winnacker which arrived looking…well… like nothing much. Bearing in mind that this was an ARC, which are often non-descript, I would ask you to take a look at the final cover and bear it in mind while you read this.
Anyway, I honestly expected to read a chapter or two and chuck it on the shelf. I was sorely mistaken. Once I started reading, I absolutely could not put this book down.
The story opens with Sherry and her family living in an underground bunker below their house. The rabies virus has mutated and the population of Los Angeles has turned into terrifying flesh eaters, known as Weepers. Those who didn’t succumb initially locked themselves inside and Sherry and her parents, her little sister and their grandmother have been shut in the basement for over three years. (Granddad died during that time and his corpse is stored in the freezer…!!!) But, they have run out of food and Sherry and her dad venture out into the nightmare to find some.
I swear, this is one of the most compelling page turners I have read for a long time. Susanne Winnacker is a genius at forcing you to turn the page. The story is quite gruesome in parts. Sherry’s dad is taken by the Weepers not long after they emerge from underground and I was frantically flipping pages with one hand over my eyes. Sherry is rescued, by mandatory love interest and hot guy, Joshua who is on a mission to seek and destroy Weepers. He takes her back to Safe-Haven where he is living with other survivors.
Each chapter begins with a flashback to the way life used to be for Sherry, giving the title The Other Life and I think this is a brilliant way to gradually reveal how Sherry has been changed by her experiences. Despite having a bit of a twee name, this girl kicks ass… which is obviously a good thing. The growing relationship between her and Joshua is really well done as it develops slowly and is very much secondary to the action. One of the really compelling ideas in this story is the way that Sherry feels empathy towards the Weepers. She is acutely aware that they were once people like her – most likely because they are still pretty intelligent savages. This is sometimes overlooked in books with this type of plot and I found it refreshing.
There is a ton of gore in here. Not gratuitous but definitely no punches are pulled. If a Weeper is gonna maul you…it’s there on the page in all its gory detail. These creatures are terrifying. They weep a milky substance from their eyes (hence their name), they’re smart and they creep about quietly, stalking you, waiting for the right moment…
So, I return to my initial point. Have a look at that cover and tell me why I and my co-kid-booky person Dani, despite both totally loving this book, have a bit of difficulty convincing people to buy it? Exactly. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a lovely cover. But it’s not a lovely cover for this book. Up really close you can see that the butterfly is dripping blood…but you have to really look. And eventually you notice the barbed wire. But at a glance it’s far too white and far too pretty for a post apocalyptic, rampaging monster, edge-of-your-seat terrifying story. And that’s a real shame…’cos both Dani and I agree that it’s one of the best we’ve ever read.