The Road to Winter by Mark Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I dithered between four and five stars for this and landed on 5, yes I would read this again, pretty sure I’d enjoy it just as much next time too. I’ll even read the next one when it comes out, that is something, I’m bad at series reading.
In a grim future Australia, where the seas have risen and then a virus has swept through, killed millions and pretty much wiped out the population – especially the women, life is very tough and lonely for 16 year old Finn. His family are all gone but left him well prepared, he has a great cache of supplies but is in constant danger of being attacked. He has a dog for company, I always love the dog characters and this one is no exception. Finn has made a life for himself, hunting rabbits, fishing, surfing and eking out an existence on what he can find when his routine is totally disrupted by the arrival of a group of ‘Wildings’ who are tracking a girl. This injured and vulnerable girl is Rose, and she needs Finn’s help, she is stroppy and damaged and Finn is overwhelmed but kind to her. She is searching for her sister and Finn is unable to resist helping her to find her.
What I loved so much about this book was the fact that it is not only a really well written dystopia, but that has much to say about current Australian politics. Rose and her sister are Siley’s, slang for asylum seekers, originally from Afghanistan, they are treated as slaves on farms and in factories as a way of solving the asylum seeker problem. Mark Smith makes his politics clear on this topic but not in any kind of preachy way, but in a humanitarian way which makes you think. It is interesting to see these issues tackled in this way, often there are bright red pointy arrows to an authors politics but in this case it is way more subtle.
If I was looking for a book to share with students in a class setting I think this would definitely be one I’d consider. It is full of contemporary issues, would enable lots of really good class discussion. I also really appreciated the format of the book and even though it is not a long book it really does look like an adult novel. That is a rare thing, in fact when I bought it I didn’t realise that it was a YA novel, and it needn’t be, this is a book for everyone. Text publishing are doing such great work in this field, I’m full of admiration for them.
I think it will appeal to the same audience who liked Station Eleven, The Passage etc and it will be a book I’ll throw at reluctant seniors who need something grown up but short. It is gritty and wonderful. Bring me the second one soon please.
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