The Other Life by Susanne Winnacker

Published by Usborne

From its butterfly cover to the blurb ‘Danger isn’t the only thing that makes your heart beat faster…’ I must confess I was a little concerned I was stepping into teen romantic fiction once again with this new YA debut from Susanne Winnacker. But, despite being concerned most of the way through the book that suddenly things would take a sudden diversion into full-on youthful passion, I’m pleased to report that the elements of first love within the dystopian world of LA in no way get in the way of a damn good story full of action, horror and a significant amount of gore along the way.

The central character of Sherry has been entrapped within a bunker with her family for 3 years, 1 month, 1 week and 6 days before she has to venture outside with her father in search of food. The eerie wasteland of what remains of LA awaits them, along with a distinct lack of people. But there are nests – nests full of vicious Weepers – a fantastic creation, as varied in type and appearance as dogs, many very close still to the human form which they once took and all with blazing yellow eyes leaking milky tears at all times. Her father is snatched away by the creatures, leaving Sherry to fend for herself a while until she finds Joshua and his family, who have set up their base in Safe Haven with other survivors of the viral outbreak. They are then faced with challenges – to find Sherry’s father, and to get back to the shelter to move the remaining members of Sherry’s family – one of whom, her grandfather, is unable to give anything but a chilly reception to any that meet him.

The element of creatures formed from what were once humans is a key element to the book, providing the horrific and painful combination of kill or be killed that has for many years been a staple of the best in horror fiction and films (Richard Matheson’s ‘I Am Legend’ and the recent tv show ‘The Walking Dead’ immediately sprung to mind). The other adult title it bears great comparison to in recent years would be Justin Cronin’s ‘The Passage’ but ‘The Other Life’ manages to capture the same themes, horror and the want to read more after closing the covers within far fewer pages than that doorstopper.

Ending perfectly, but in a way that can easily lead to a second book (which I hope isn’t long in coming), ‘The Other Life’ is just like real life in that it leaves us with nagging questions and wanting to know more and yet, upon finishing the book and settling to sleep, it will stay with you as your mind races to provide a closure for the characters and their story.

Open your shelter door, check carefully around you, and then run – run to the bookshops and buy – after all, this is a guide to survival.

Keith

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