If there is something that has been done to death more than zombies and vampires, it would certainly have to be post-apocalyptic stories/themes/films/what-have-you. Truth be told, I’m a bit tired of it. Most of the time it’s just a rehash of the same old concept: mankind brings itself to the edge of extinction and must find a way out of it. Oddly enough, that is part of the premise of Knocking On Heaven’s Door: A Novel. But the key word there is “part.” There’s a spin on this story that is unlike the others I have read. I liked it enough that I read it all in one sitting, an unusual feat since I normally read several books at any given time. Standing out from the average novel, I feel obliged to share my thoughts about it.
Imagine a time in the future, roughly a century from now, where scientists have learned to clone creatures from the Pleistocene period. These long-extinct animals were far from the simple beasts we imagined; many of them were telepathic. This link to the past marked a turning point for science and for mankind. Humanity, unfortunately, was in for a bit of a surprise. Somehow, a genetically engineered supervirus swept across the planet, killing most of the human population. In a bold move to save our species, scientists across the world set in motion a plan to rescue as many people as possible.
Now, on the 150th anniversary of the event, the reader is shown how different the future is in this utopian “paradise.” Divided into tribes, mankind begins to renew itself. Technology has been set aside to be used strictly for scientific and educational purposes. Daily existence resembles more of a Paleolithic lifestyle, far more mundane than it is today. The way the two themes coexist is what makes this novel so unique. A sort of symbiosis is created within this new culture. The simple and the difficult exist in almost complete harmony. Unfortunately, as happens so often in our current world, it is the differences between people that cause the most problems.
Centering around Clare and her tribe, we see not just daily life but also how well rounded the people are. Trained to use the “solarcomps” for email and study, they have a working knowledge of what once was. It appears that, as a whole, they have learned from past mistakes and taken a more pacifistic approach. Arguments and disagreements are handled through verbal interaction as a group. Personal integrity is important to everyone, being seen less as a personal affection of honor and more of a necessary part of the community. Everyone does their part for the good of the tribe. Mostly.
Quests play an important part in the growth of an individual. Every so often, it is expected that tribal members will embark on a quest accompanied by a guide. Clare, by all accounts, is an excellent guide. Paired with Brad, one of the so-called “lab rats” that seldom leave the laboratories, she finds her work cut out for her. Accommodating his personality is no easy task but when they discover themselves in an unusual situation, they are able to work as a team to overcome obstacles. Thus begins an odd relationship that turns their world on it’s edge and changes things in a way the reader will not see coming.
There are additional companions and many other relationships that help create this world where intelligence and strength are necessary in equal parts. Survival in groups is easier than when alone, the tribe is family and works to strengthen their lives. Semi-nomadic, they have learned to live from the land without destroying it. You’ll be intrigued by what author Sharman Apt Russell has included in this futuristic Earth, lending it a distinctive place amongst tales of this kind. You can definitely tell the author is a professor, the addition of the assigned papers from Clare’s students was both entertaining and informative, driving the story further with ease. As I said before, I essentially inhaled this book. It has a wonderful flow to the writing style and I am inspired to find more works from this author.I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.