by Brenda Marie Smith
GENRE: Sci-fi, Science Fiction (post-apocalyptic)
A standalone sequel to IF DARKNESS TAKES US
A solar electromagnetic pulse fried the U.S. grid. Now northern lights are in Texas—3,000 miles farther south than where they belong. The universe won’t stop screwing with 18-year-old Keno Simms. All that’s left for him and his broken family is farming their Austin subdivision, trying to eke out a living on poor soil in the scorching heat.
Keno’s one solace is his love for Alma, who has her own secret sorrows. When he gets her pregnant, he vows to keep her alive no matter what. Yet armed marauders and nature itself collude against him, forcing him to make choices that rip at his conscience. IF THE LIGHT ESCAPES is post-apocalyptic science fiction set in a near-future reality, a coming-of-age story told in the voice of a heroic teen who’s forced into manhood too soon.
“These northern lights bug the crap out of me,” I tell Alma. “What are they doing here? They’re supposed to be tied to magnetic poles. I saw this show a couple years ago that said the north pole was drifting north, not south. So how did they end up here? The poles can’t drift around randomly. That’s impossible.”
“I don’t know, baby. They worry me, too, but we need to be quiet.”
“They make me feel like something bad is gonna happen. What do you call that? Fore-something.”
“That’s it. I’ll be quiet, now, and just stew in my foreboding.”
“Silly.” Alma reaches up and ruffles my hair.
When we patrol and we can’t cuddle on account of guns, Alma and I could talk all night. It’s not a good idea for us to talk much when we’re patrolling, though. We get all involved and forget to listen for anyone who might be sneaking around, hunting for food or water, or worse: getting ready to kill us for it.
We walk along with our rifles in the night. It’s cool out here, but not cold…
Alma stops and raises her gun.
“Hear that?” she whispers.
“No, what?” I’ve got my gun up, too, and I’m pivoting around, searching. I want to hide Alma, but she would never let me.
“Over there.” She points at the corner by the park. And I hear a jangly noise, like car keys. No one drives cars now, though…
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Brenda Marie Smith lived off the grid for many years in a farming collective where her sons were delivered by midwives. She’s been a community activist, managed student housing co-ops, produced concerts to raise money for causes, done massive quantities of bookkeeping, and raised a small herd of teenage boys.
Brenda is attracted to stories where everyday characters transcend their limitations to find their inner heroism. She and her husband reside in a grid-connected, solar-powered home in South Austin, Texas. They have more grown kids and grandkids than they can count.
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“If the Light Escapes” by Brenda Marie Smith follows the adventure of eighteen-year-old Keno, who is struggling to keep his neighborhood safe and surviving in a world that has lost its technology after an EMP pulse. In addition to those from outside who threaten to destroy everything that has been eked out of the harsh environment that they now live in, there are both family and climate challenges to overcome…and everything they do may still not be enough.
This post-apocalyptic science fiction story is gritty, dark, depressing, violent, and thought-provoking. This story is part of the ‘Braving the Light’ series, but it can be read as a stand-alone tale, although I am pretty sure it would be better appreciated if the first book, “If Darkness Takes Us” is read first. The imagery is vivid, and the author does a great job of pointing out both the difficulties of surviving in a world that lacks the amenities and essentials that we take for granted.
I like the range of ages represented in this microcosm of society even as I ached for the difficult decisions and the loss that is inevitable in such a primitive existence. The loss of innocence on multiple levels is graphically described, and I cringed at some of the situations that were faced. As a gardener, the challenges of growing supplies under such challenging conditions resonated with me, although I am thankful that I don’t have such life-and-death consequences to my success or failure to grow produce.
Those who are familiar with this genre know that survival at any cost is a major factor in the stories depicted. Those who are not typical readers of this type of story should be warned that there are plenty of triggers and the tale may be depressing to some. Those looking for a compelling and sobering read should definitely get caught by the spell woven by this talented author.
A copy of this title was provided for review