By Elizabeth Knox
Elizabeth Knox is the very popular New Zealand Author of books such as The Vintner's Luck, Billie's Kiss, the Dream Hunter books and very recently Mortal Fire. In Wake she ventures into the territory of horror, and rips into it from the opening pages. It is one of the more spectacularly gory starts to a book I have read, when what is best described as a mass insanity overtakes the small settlement of Kahukura, near Nelson, and the residents set about destroying one another. Disturbing and blood-thirsty as this start is, it perfectly sets the scene, and the horrified, scared and bewildered mindset of the small number of survivors. They find themselves physically trapped within the town and its surrounds by a mysterious force field they call the no-go. They are completely cut off from the outside world, have no idea what they are up against, what caused the others to become homicidal, and if it is over. With bodies everywhere and the risk of disease that have to set about dealing with the dead while also taking care of the differing needs of the living.
Wake provides a window into the way people cope with crisis or don't cope, as the case may be. They are a diverse bunch of people, from a police officer and a nurse, to a DOC worker worried about her kakapo, a man in mourning for his wife murdered in the first wave, a woman who seems to have split personalities, a lawyer, a teenager, a mother & daughter. Add into the mix the realisation that they are trapped in this town, trapped with something, something invisible that is playing them, picking at them, unraveling them. And there is the mystery man, the man in black, who they are unsure is a friend or foe.
I found this to be a cracker of a book that had me staying up way too late at night. It combines perfectly horror, science fiction and psychological thriller with human drama. Elizabeth Knox throws these characters into a seemingly hopeless and unsolvable situation and picks away at them, unraveling them until they distill down and we see who fades and who finds strength.
Because of its graphic beginning I think this is a book that will divide opinion. But I for one, after getting over the shock of that, loved it. It showed how humanity can flourish or fade under adversity and also the extremes people will go to to survive or to protect others. It is superbly written, but above all else, it is a great story.