Read of the Week

South

Frank Owen

Corvus Books

Review: Karen Watkins

The opening scene of South describes an old man riding a rusted exercise bike in the cellar below his shack. He’s charging an eighteen-volt car battery that will provide him with 40 minutes’ worth of electricity. Outside lies death, disease, and desolation.

It’s an interesting story. However, I do have misgivings about the plot which took me some 30-odd pages before realising that South takes place in the future.

It’s a post-apocalyptic story set in America after a devastating civil war, where the country is solidly divided: North vs South. Where the wind carries a potentially deadly virus.

Where the North secured its victory with a lethal biological weapon: an airborne virus capable of spreading faster than it kills.

As an environmentalist, I’ve always been aware that future wars could be over water, and so I continued, open to the idea of the plot. South also has the thread of a love affair – not your regular roses and candlelight, but set against a daily battle to survive. Brothers Garrett and Allerdyce “Dyce” Jackson are on the run from the Callahans, and meet Vida Washington, who is on her own secret mission.

The trio set out on a journey to find the elusive colony at The Mouth, travelling through a dark, barren landscape devoid of life and beauty. In this grim setting of fighting for survival against man and nature, there’s a sense of impending doom, and yet it’s a story about finding hope and unexpected love in a world where everything has been stripped away.

Knowing that this high-concept debut novel was written by local authors Diane Awerbuck and Alex Latimer, under the pen name Frank Owen, I tried to see where one person began and the other ended, but to no avail. What a feat.

The story may be set in America but there is local flavour intertwined throughout in the form of Vida’s mother, who is from this country and whom Vida is trying to save.