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Book Review

Book Cover

The Prey


Author: Tom Isbell
Publisher: Harper Voyager
RRP: £7.99
ISBN: 978 0 00 752818 9
Publication Date: 12 March 2015

Twenty years following Omega, the last devastating nuclear war, the world has changed. Book finds himself in an orphanage for LT’s, which everybody assumes stands for "Lieutenant", when in fact, it stands for "Less Than’s", rather than being trained to be leaders of men, the children are being readied to be prey...

The Prey (2015. 404 pages) is the first in a series of young adult post apocalyptic novels from Tom Isbell, very much in the same vein as The Maze Runner and The Hunger Games. It would seem that should the world come close to the edge of destruction adults will suddenly decide to be dicks to kids. I guess it plays upon some feelings of being powerless when you think you have grown up, only to discover that adults will still be determined to tell you what to do.

The novel opens with two main protagonists, Book and Hope. Hope is on the run from the Brown Shirts, the paramilitary wing of an ultra right wing government who feel that the only way to rebuild a shattered America is through political, physical and racial purity. Very early on in the book Hope's father dies and Hope and her sister Faith are captured and sent to a camp for females, unaware of the horrors which await them.

Male children, with any form of physical deformation, are removed from their families and placed into different camps believing that if they are not being trained for greatness at least they are not being raised for sport. Only when a stray young man called Cat is brought into the camp is the camp purpose revealed.

The story then conspires to get Hope and Book together to mount an escape from the camps and into the great unknown where the group have to contend with wolves, hunters, crazies and of course the Brown Shirts.

Although treading through similar territory as other YA books, there is much to commend the story, although the writing is not without its problems.

Isbell keeps the chapters short and the pace high, the slightly enlarged print makes the book feel much longer than it actually is. The characters of Book and Hope are well realised even if their strange relationship is not. I felt that too much of the book was given over to their burgeoning romance, which happens so fast as to be almost unbelievable. If the author had wanted these two characters to be romantically linked it would have been better to spread this thread throughout the whole three books.

The writing style is a little sloppy, with some unintentional funny similes, faces compared to anvils as well as some strange and unintentional descriptions “wearing his customary smirk beneath his oily hair”, which unfortunately skips over his eyes and nose. Likewise the author, at times, mixes up first and third person perspective within single chapters.

For all of that, it is unlikely that a fourteen year old reader would notice or care about such matters, so as a fast paced action adventure the book works pretty well.


Charles Packer

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