Sure, that’s a word.
First, a brief synopsis (no spoilers):
Thirty-year-old Zoe comes home from her job as a janitor at a pharmaceutical company to find a strange ceramic jar in her kitchen. Around the same time, people start dying. War breaks out. Civilization crumbles. And Zoe is left on her own, trekking through Europe, searching for her lost love. But even though she’s on her own, she’s not alone – she’s joined by people who want to help her and chased by people who want to hurt her. Can she hang on to her humanity long enough to find the one person she’s still living for?
I typically enjoy post-apocalyptic or dystopian novels in general, but the thing that set White Horse apart for me was its non-linear structure. It bounced between the past and the present, sharing scenes from each that built upon each other like a puzzle. Adams was able to create good tension and momentum through this structure, and that’s what kept me reading.
The characters were…fine. The mostly stark (but for a few hundred metaphors) writing didn’t lend itself well to character development, so I never got a good sense of any of the players. In a story like this, that might be a good thing – perhaps it’s easier to picture yourself and what you would do in the same situation if the characters aren’t as fleshed out.
Overall, I liked the plot and the concept (and totally didn’t see the twist coming at the end), but some aspects of the story didn’t add up to me:
- The ceramic jar. Personally, if I find a ceramic jar in my kitchen that I didn’t put there, I’m going to the police, not a shrink. (That’s what Zoe does, but why? If it’s ever explained in the book, I don’t remember it.)
- The love story. Don’t get me wrong – I liked the love story. I just don’t much like any book that expects me to buy “they met and fell in love, seemingly for no reason and after very little interaction.” Oh wait, that’s how I ended up married. Carry on.
- The bad guy(s). I know it happens, but I have a hard time buying that someone is “just bad” or “just crazy,” and that’s the vibe I got from the bad guys in this book.
- The epidemic. In a world where we blow literally everything out of proportion, it’s not possible that a bunch of people dying from the same thing would be ignored for very long, but that’s what happens in White Horse.
- The relationships. Is any company in an apocalypse preferable to no company at all? I don’t think so, but some of the people Zoe befriends (or tolerates) make me believe she thinks otherwise.
I think what it boils down to is character motivation. Well-developed characters do things that make some sort of sense – and a lot of the things these characters did served only to propel the story forward.
Global crisis? I’m not going to hop a plane to track down my parents halfway across the world (sorry, mom and dad.) Strange jar in my kitchen? I’m not going to a therapist about it (I’m still really hung up on that – go to the law! THE LAW!) Bad guy wants to be my buddy? I’m not going to trek across the country with some jerk. (I did that once already, on my honeymoon.)
Despite all that, White Horse is a good read that has an interesting structure and generally tight writing. I liked it, despite how mean I’ve been toward it.
But then again, I like my husband, and look how mean I am toward him.
Tell me, friends: Who would you want with you in an apocalypse? I’d pick my husband, because he can take a joke.