Audrey Driscoll (WordPress) has written an excellent review of Blue Across the Sea (BATS).
Thanks for your time and effort in reading a novice’s first novel and writing such a well composed and accurate review. I’m in your debt.
This post-apocalyptic, coming-of-age novel is set in western North America several hundred years after a major coronal mass ejection has destroyed much of the world’s electrical grid and the internet. Social breakdown and the worst aspects of human nature did the rest. This is the story of people living in a socialistic community called Murtaugh, with basic, pre-industrial technology supplemented to a limited extent by electricity and antibiotics. My impression was that of a 1960s hippie commune brought to idealistic and practical perfection. [Dave: too true!]
The main character is Tillion, a boy on the brink of manhood, who washes up near Murtaugh after being shipwrecked while fishing in a storm. He becomes part of the community, contributing his inventiveness and willingness to work. An unexpected event causes him and a young woman, Anise (who is also a newcomer), to flee Murtaugh and seek their home villages.
I was drawn in by vivid descriptions of how Tillion and other characters worked with the resources around them to make what they needed to live relatively well. Boats and fishing gear are important, as are bows and arrows and knives. People grow and process food, hunt game, and preserve meat. The importance of manual competence and inventiveness is quietly emphasized. Leftovers from the “Before time” (i.e., our present) are seen as both curiosities and resources. Books are prized and community members are taught to read and write.
Tillion and the other characters have distinctive personalities; their relationships with one another and their individual characteristics make them appealing. I followed them with interest through a number of challenges, losses, and triumphs. I did find the dialogue a bit stilted in places, especially when Tillion and Anise are alone together. Sometimes it was hard to believe they were in their late teens and not a mature, middle-aged pair! [Dave: I was a very shy, old-for-my-years teenager…]
Scenes unfold steadily, building to a number of tense climaxes and resolutions before the primary challenge facing the two young people as they make decisions as individuals and members of communities. My credibility was strained in a few places, where hazards were dealt with a bit too easily. [Dave: I’ve since learned, don’t be nice to your characters.] Overall, though, the story was interesting and exciting, with most issues resolved in a satisfying way, but with hints of further adventures to come.
I was pleased to see a map near the end of the text, but would have appreciated it more if it were placed at the beginning. The Epilogue, which is actually a combination of prologue and afterword, is both interesting and chilling.