4 out of 4 stars
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Thirty years ago, the Great Fatigue, a disease of unprecedented viciousness, ravaged humanity. Science raced to produce a cure, which was snapped up by the masses since those who refused it became shriveled and wasted by the disease. But two years later, the humans who had accepted the cure began to lose their minds, becoming little more than grunting, violent beasts.
Now, two humans who escaped the plague, a young man named Seth and his adoptive father, the Professor, live alone in the Utah desert, where they search for a way to return intelligence to the now-primitive human race. Seth has been raised to believe that there are no other true humans left alive on the planet, a belief that is shattered when he hears another person’s voice coming over an old radio. It seems the Professor has been hiding his past as well as Seth’s own, and the information Seth uncovers will change the course of both of their lives.
Elsewhere, the tiny, tropical settlement of New Haven is mostly safe from the primitives prowling outside its gates. The citizens, survivors of the Great Fatigue who refused the cure and now struggle with the after-effects of the disease, believe themselves totally alone in the world. One young woman, Sarah, is convinced that there are other humans out there, and she plans to find them. When her intended escape from New Haven goes awry, she is kidnapped by Josh, her supervisor-turned-stalker, who enlists her in an expedition to the outside world. She pretends to go along with his plans, hoping to break away from him. But Josh has some secrets of his own, secrets that could unravel their carefully crafted society.
Primitives, written by Erich Krauss, is a post-apocalyptic science fiction novel set in the near future. It follows Seth and Sarah as they navigate their separate but mirrored worlds, which ultimately collide. The ending of the book is satisfying, but there are more than enough questions left to launch a sequel.
The world Krauss creates is gritty and raw, and the writing is immersive. The plot is fictional, of course, but it is believable enough to bring the reader along on a thrilling ride. Vibrant settings and flawed, authentic characters add dimension to an already compelling story that is punctuated with plenty of action to keep the chapters moving swiftly. In the afterword, the author explains that a surprisingly large amount of the book was taken from his own life, and his experience shows in the clarity and specificity of his writing.
I was particularly drawn to Seth’s character. Since he was a baby at the time of the collapse of civilization, he has never known any human other than the Professor. I was fascinated by watching Seth interact with others for the first time, which didn’t go the way I thought it would but nevertheless felt realistic.
There is a great deal of profanity and a moderate amount of violence, so I could not recommend the book to children, but adult and mature young adult readers would certainly be able to enjoy it. The book feels polished and professional, and my only complaint about it was that it ended; as soon as I had finished it, I found myself wanting to start over again.
Primitives easily earns a score of 4 out of 4 for its thrilling adventure and masterful storytelling. It would most appeal to fans of science fiction looking for a gritty, fascinating, post-apocalyptic world and a daring adventure.
As for me, it has been a very long time since a book has grabbed me the way this one did, and I can see myself reading it again and again. Primitives has earned itself a permanent place on my bookshelf.
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