Rating – 4/5
In the year 2161, the rise of the chimera precipitated a catastrophic event (called the Reckoning) that wiped away the human population from the Earth, barring a few people. Generations later, descendants of those survivors are leading a rustic life within walled villages, afraid to go beyond the boundaries due to the fear of the chimeras. Further, they honor traditions and have a deep mistrust for technology.
Young Root, however, is different. Blind daughter of the village guardian, her endless curiosity and impertinence test her fellow villagers’ patience. A tragic event leads her to the wild country beyond the village walls where she learns the truth about her ancestors, and how the world she inhabits has come to this state.
Once in a while, you come across a book that tiptoes into your heart and resides there forever.
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Andy Giesler’s The Nothing Within is one such book. It’s a rural-dystopian, science-fiction novel that explores a post-apocalyptic Amish society. This may seem like an onslaught of elephantine concepts, but the novel is steeped in simplicity—both in terms of lexicon and settings.
Told from the perspectives of Ruth Troyer and Root, the novel seamlessly alternates between the past and present. It encompasses the storyteller as well as the journal narration style, both of which are splendidly executed by Giesler. The first half is slow as it lays the brickwork for the World That Is and the World That Was.
I was completely immersed in Giesler’s rustic, spartan, ordered world. The post-apocalyptic world, shaped by Amish principles (the Amish community was able to survive the Reckoning as they could function without modern gadgetry) and fear of innovation, is brought alive by his atmospheric writing that is augmented by a map at the beginning of the book.
Giesler plants enough clues in both the timelines for the reader to form his own theories. This ensured I leafed through the pages speedily despite the slow first half. The pace quickens in the second half, though. Giesler effortlessly weaves together the different threads—and ties up all the loose ends in the process—resulting in an inevitable yet surprising dénouement sans the jaw-dropping, slamming-into-a-lamp-post effect that dystopia/science fiction books do. The epilogue doesn’t present a happy ending, but it isn’t depressing either.
I liked the character development as well. Both Ruth Troyer and Root, naïve and weak at first, battle unprecedented adversities to develop spirits forged in fire and ultimately become the leaders of their communities. Most importantly, the story of The Nothing Within is exceptional. It’s a refreshingly different take on the post-apocalypse dystopia genre.
This novel would have been a 5-star read for me if not for the slow first-half. Consequently, it takes time to build tension in the plot. A little less flab would have made the book more enticing.
With fantastic world-building, solid characters and a unique plot, The Nothing Within is highly recommended for dystopian and science fiction lovers.
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I received an e-ARC from Reedsy Discovery in exchange for an honest review. I opted to post the review on my blog.
Kindle Edition, 552 pages, Published June 14th 2019 by Humble Quill LLC
Have you read The Nothing Within? What other science-fiction/post-apocalyptic/dystopian book(s) have you read that blew away your grey matter? Let me know in the comments below.