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Saturday, November 14, 2009

'The Forest of Hands & Teeth' by Carrie RYAN

From the BLURB:

In Mary's world there are simple truths. The Sisterhood always knows best. The Guardians will protect and serve. The Unconsecrated will never relent. And you must always mind the fence that surrounds the village; the fence that protects the village from the Forest of Hands and Teeth. But, slowly, Mary's truths are failing her. She's learning things she never wanted to know about the Sisterhood and its secrets, and the Guardians and their power, and about the Unconsecrated and their relentlessness. When the fence is breached and her world is thrown into chaos, she must choose between her village and her future - between the one she loves and the one who loves her. And she must face the truth about the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Could there be life outside a world surrounded in so much death?

This is one of the best novels I have read all year. I loved it so much I ended up reading it in about 3 hours – I simply could not put it down.

‘The Forest of Hands and Teeth’ (best title ever, by the way!) picks up where so many zombie movies leave off. ‘Dawn of the Dead’ and ’28 Days Later’ all concentrate on the beginning of a zombie pandemic – the moment when everything falls apart and survivors are left to wonder at this strange new world. ‘Forest’ takes a different route – examining the aftermath of a zombie plague, years after the fact.

The main protagonist, Mary, has grown up on her mother’s stories of the ocean and buildings that reach the sky. But she has never known anything beyond the boundaries of her small village. Think M. Night Shymalan’s ‘The Village’ – as a community of people live within the confines of a tall fence that keeps the ‘Unconsecrated’ (zombies) out. These people have reverted back to past times – where the governing body is the church (The Sisterhood) and the village’s inhabitants are encouraged to marry and continue the human race.

Even as the Unconsecrated infected the living and the pressure of the Return began to build, They were busy constructing fences. Infinitely long fences. Whether the fences were to keep the Unconsecrated out or the living in we no longer know. But the end result was our village, an enclave of hundreds of survivors in the middle of a vast Forest of Unconsecrated.

Carrie Ryan has created an utterly fascinating paradigm of the world as we know it – only in a zombie aftermath. Survivors of the infection rely on simple truths and customs in their bid to go on living in a world so fraught with death and destruction. Ryan has imbued ‘The Sisterhood’ with a religious zeal that is eerie and compelling;

Remember where we came from, Mary. Where we all came from. Not the Garden of Eden, but the ashes of the Return. We are the survivors.

When we first meet Mary she is in a difficult position – the brother of the man she loves has asked for her hand in marriage, and she has little choice but to accept him. At the same time her mother’s madness sees her breaching the boundary fence in search of her Unconsecrated husband. On the one hand, being thrown into Mary’s turmoil from the get-go raises the stakes and kick-starts the book with a fast pace. But it would have been nice to have had a lull in which we could have observed Mary’s life before her upheaval.

‘Forest’ has a very sweet but complicated romance at its centre. Mary is torn between Harry who wants to marry her, and his brother Travis whom she loves. It is a very complex romantic triangle – and readers will be hard pressed to choose between Harry and Travis. Once again, it would have been nice if there were a pause in the frantic pace to observe Mary’s interactions with her two beaus – instead the action stays helter-skelter throughout.

Ryan does write action scenes extremely well. They have an exhilarating, cinematic quality that will leave you breathless. ‘Forest’ definitely has potential for movie adaptation.

I love, love, loved this book! And I was very pleased to discover that Ryan has a 2nd book in the works, set in the same universe but dealing with different characters. ‘The Dead-Tossed Waves’ comes out March 2010 and I will definitely be buying it.

5/5

2 comments:

  1. I hadn't heard of this book before. It does sound interesting. Will add to my TBB list!

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  2. Danielle,

    I have this one on my wish list and I stopped at 'This is one of the best novels I've read all year'. LOL That's all I needed to know. :)

    M

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