PJV Quickie: I usually get excited when authors narrate their own books. But, then again, I’ve really only experienced the best this way, like Libba Bray ( amazing ). So, I was pretty pumped to listen to Michael Farris Smith narrate his apocalyptic gem, RIVERS. Unfortunately, Smith’s narration was a bit dry and emotionless, which turned this very heart-pounding and emotional book into a rather slow listen. If it would have been a hired narrator, I would have stopped listening. That it was the author gave it more credit, but the entertainment factor was minimalistic. If you have choice, read this baby. Good job with the writing Mr. Smith and yes, you have a great Southern accent, but next time maybe leave the narration to the professionals.  Michael Farris Smith’s new novel was on the lines of novels like Cormac McCarthy’s THE ROAD and Pat Frank’s ALAS, BABYLON, so to have such a wilted narration was a disappointment. Don’t just this book by the narration though, go forth and read…not listen.

Review:

The book was a heart-pounding account of the Gulf South literally being wiped away in a torrent of rain. The storms are never-ending, the rain never stops and the United States has abandoned the Gulf South region to the elements. People that remain in the area are left to their own devices, fending for themselves in a Wild West type situation. Cohen is the main character of this tale, he has remained at his house, living like a ghost, clinging to the memories of his dead wife and child with every ounce of his being. He has no future, all he has is a past, because there really is nothing to live for, just more rain and more storms and a house with a lot of memories. Until one day he loses his house.

They catch him on the way back from a supply run. Against his better judgement he picks up a boy and a girl that are injured on the side of the road. He is ambushed and left for dead, the group of marauders make their way to his house and ransack it, taking everything he owns, along with the memories that he had in a little box. His whole world is turned on it’s head and Cohen is finally pushed out of his carefully constructed apocalyptic life. He has to find his supplies, so he follows the marauders trail, to a community that gives me shivers just thinking about it. The community is run by a man named Aggie, he thinks himself a preacher, he is keeping most of the women prisoners, forced to “repopulate” the Earth in his image. A few are pregnant, a few are on death’s door, all are prisoners. Even the two that attacked Cohen on the road back to his home. Cohen can’t sit back and just observe any longer.

Michael Farris Smith’s image of the Gulf South was amazing. I could just imagine what his world looked liked, his descriptions were so real. It makes it even more intense because I know this entire area very well, living in New Orleans and my family has vacation homes in Biloxi (Buh – Luck – Z not By Lock Zi) and Gulfport region, which were all mentioned in the book. Cohen was a great character, not the usual in the sense of great apocalypse hero, but just a regular guy, who found himself in a very irregular situation with a lot of people looking up to him because he was the only male adult figure with any sense and morals. I enjoyed his character, even though I would have liked to have the secondary characters expounded on a bit more, all of them had such rich back stories, just like Cohen, I was just itching for more. At times the character interaction did leave me a little uncomfortable, especially the odd relationship between Cohen and Mariposa. I understood why it was explored, it just made me uncomfortable. I guess because it was real and this is how people might react in a time like this.

It was real. It was riveting and it was disturbing. RIVERS is a novel you do not want to pass up, especially fans of the post-apocalyptic genre. This isn’t your young adult dystopian, this a grown-up, real world post-apocalyptic environment. The writing is richly detailed, the exposition is explored with detail-oriented precision. The characters are gritty and real, full of psychosis’  and unintentional heroic moments. It had the smell of truth and the horror of real-life. You could tell by the descriptions that the author had experienced the tragedy of similar situations and truly fear the world he imagined. Michael Farris Smith did an excellent job with RIVERS. I can not wait for what he will produce next.

Recommendations:

Fans of the post-apocalypse, this is the book for you. I also recommend this for people that are familiar with the Gulf South region, it is awesome reading about this area, especially if you have experience with hurricanes. It will scare you silly! Fans of authors like Margaret Atwood, Justin Cronin and David Brin – you should really enjoy. This is an adult novel and topics of an adult nature are covered. There are no graphic scenes, but I don’t recommend this for immature readers.