I finally got my teeth into this gorgeous book only a few weeks after meeting the lovely author and I really really enjoyed this book! You don’t hear much about contemporary sci-fi survivalist books nowadays and the concept behind this one was truly awesome and hella interesting.
What happens when the lights go off after what might truly be an end-of-the-world event? How do you stay alive? Who do you trust? How much do you have to sacrifice?
‘After the Lights Go Out is a terrifying yet hope-filled story of disaster, deceit, love, sacrifice and survival.’ – Fleur Ferris
Seventeen-year-old Pru Palmer lives with her twin sisters, Grace and Blythe, and their father, Rick, on the outskirts of an isolated mining community. The Palmers are doomsday preppers. They have a bunker filled with non-perishable food and a year’s worth of water. Each of the girls has a ‘bug out bag’, packed with water purification tablets, protein bars, paracord bracelets and epipens for Pru’s anaphylaxis.
One day while Rick is at the mine, the power goes out. At the Palmers’ house, and in the town. No one knows why. All communication is cut. It doesn’t take long for everything to unravel. In town, supplies run out and people get desperate. The sisters decide to keep their bunker a secret. The world is different; the rules are different. Survival is everything, and family comes first.
So the fact that I read this book in less than 24 hours can give you an idea of how addictive and how well written this book was. I started reading it yesterday morning, only the first chapter, then picked up again at around 9 pm perhaps?
I couldn’t stop reading. It got to about 1 am when I realised I really should be getting some sleep or I’ll be way too tired in the morning and by that point, I was past the halfway mark and loving it.
Next morning, I woke up and did something I haven’t done in years, I literally just woke up and started reading it and I finished within a couple of hours. Who cares if my stomach wanted food and water, I wanted to finish the book. Every time there seemed to be a point I could stop as things died down plot-wise, something else jumped out at me and I had to finish that chapter. I truly devoured this book, and today to review it, I’m bringing back some categories for structure.
World-Building/Backstory & Writing
We meet Pru, a 17-year-old teen living out in the hot outback of Australia (woohoo!) and living with her twin sisters and their father. The first awesome and unique plot point of this book: they’re doomsday preppers.
I’ll be honest, when I started reading about how many skills Pru acquired and how prepared her Father made them, I was almost ready to start my own survival kit too. I actually started doing a ‘getaway’ bag when I was younger at the time where I was loving the Tomorrow When the War Began series by James Marsden. This book gave me all those vibes of Tomorrow, as well as The 5th Wave (although I’ve only watched the movie hehe) and also Red Dog vibes (amazing movie).
It wasn’t hard imagining the landscape and the bushland Lili Wilkinson described because her writing was so vivid in its descriptions as well as the fact that I live in Australia. I should know what it looks like 😛
Learning about Pru and her sisters and their way of life, you could feel the emotion rolling off the pages and the writing on how much Pru wished she had a normal life but when the shit hits the fan, we quickly find out how essential these skills are when you’re living in an extremely rural town with limited resources.
The explanation for how the communication is cut and the power goes out is actually super interesting. As a science nerd, I looked into it after reading this book too and I think I’ve got a tiny bit of doomsday prepper in me, this shit could get real – although the novel does take a fair amount of creative license so I won’t be building a bunker anytime soon. Lili managed to explain all the science mumbo-jumbo really well and it was so easy to understand.
Characters & Themes
I thought Pru was such a beautiful character and I could seriously empathise with her so well. As she’s figuratively battling what she’s been taught for her family and herself, and what she feels is right intuitively, I could feel all those emotions and basically cried as to how torn I was feeling as a result. The themes within this book resonate so well and are so intricately described in the context that you can’t help but debate in your own head as you read. To do what’s right and to do by what you’re taught or to protect your family is such an incredibly hard choice.
The themes of love, sacrifice and survival are definitely key to all the characters in this novel. Pru is torn and feeling so full of guilt and how she feels and the way the town reacts to the disaster makes you almost question your morals and how far one person would go to survive. If anyone else like me really likes reading and discussing philosophical topics like this, I really recommend a movie called After the Dark. That is one interesting movie about morals for survival in a life or death situation.
Pru’s twin sisters Grace and Blythe were also some great supporting characters in that they gave different perspectives on their situations. While dealing with the hard decisions of whether to keep their bunker secret and helping the people in town, these girls including Pru are dealing with teenage problems and issues to do with relationships, love, obsession and their individuality and independence which created some great depth in these characters and the story overall.
Pru’s dad was another important character to the story in that Lili perfectly described the level of paranoia many doomsday preppers have. It isn’t simply about a natural disaster or a worldwide survival obstacle but at the heart is a complete distrust of society and others including your family. I won’t discuss any other characters not mentioned in the blurb because I don’t want to spoil anything, but there were other important characters I loved too.
Ready, Set, Action!
Now you would think that because this book is about a small rural town trying to survive without communication and electricity that it would have some boring parts but honestly, it didn’t. Even when there wasn’t a lot of action, the writing was written so succinctly that it didn’t feel like a bore reading those and it was actually interesting. This continued until another serious piece of action came along that hooked me in even more into the story.
This book not only explores the lengths people will go to survive in a grim situation but also looked at how freaking dangerous the world can quickly become without the simple technologies we’ve learnt to rely on. What if you’re allergic and prone to anaphylaxis without an EpiPen? This was mentioned and holy shit, if I was allergic I would die so fast cause I’m clumsy af and would probably accidentally jump into a beehive or slip on smeared peanut butter.
This was just an awesome book. It has all the pieces I love in a novel; action, relationships, seriously thought-provoking themes and topics that you actually think about after having finished reading it and some great easy to read writing that hooks you in from the first chapter. This actually prompted me to watch a disaster film today and I ended up watching San Andreas, and dear god, I was getting anxiety just watching that tsunami on the tv screen. No more disaster films for a while.
Have you guys read any other books by Lili Wilkinson? Have you read After the Lights Go Out and what did you think? Let me know in the comments,
Until next time,