Survival is the name of the game as the line blurs between reality TV and reality itself in Alexandra Oliva’s fast-paced novel of suspense.
She wanted an adventure. She never imagined it would go this far.
It begins with a reality TV show. Twelve contestants are sent into the woods to face challenges that will test the limits of their endurance. While they are out there, something terrible happens—but how widespread is the destruction, and has it occurred naturally or is it man-made? Cut off from society, the contestants know nothing of it. When one of them—a young woman the show’s producers call Zoo—stumbles across the devastation, she can imagine only that it is part of the game.
Alone and disoriented, Zoo is heavy with doubt regarding the life—and husband—she left behind, but she refuses to quit. Staggering countless miles across unfamiliar territory, Zoo must summon all her survival skills—and learn new ones as she goes.
But as her emotional and physical reserves dwindle, she grasps that the real world might have been altered in terrifying ways—and her ability to parse the charade will be either her triumph or her undoing.
(I received a copy of this book through Netgalley after picking it out myself based on the description. I always give honest reviews, just so you know..)
I wasn’t convinced by this book at first. I thought there were too many characters and if I’m honest, now that I’ve finished the book, I still think there were too many characters. But the premise intrigued me, so I pushed on and I’m glad that I did.
The story follows Zoo. Zoo isn’t her real name, it’s a nickname she’s been given because she works… at a zoo. Very inventive, I know. There’s also Tracker, Black Doctor, Waitress,… and they are all part of this reality show where they will have to race against each other and survive in the wilderness. Only, they don’t know all the facts. For example, they don’t know that there’s no finish line. The only way the race ends is when there is only one person left and all the others have given up. Because that’s the twist, you can only leave the race if you give up and say the line that means you want to exit.
(When I said there were too many characters, I also want to refer to the names they use. Sometimes they talk about Tracker, Exorcist,… and sometimes they refer to them by their real names Cooper, Randy,… and I thought that was very confusing. Just wanted to mention this briefly.)
When Zoo starts to find abandoned towns and dummies of dead people, she assumes it’s all just part of the game. Of course, we know better. Disease has spread through the country and many people have died. So everything she comes across is real even if she believes it’s all fake. I’m guessing that’s what keeps her going for so long. The fact that she still thinks it’s all part of the game protects her from the horrible reality.
I’m not going to say too much more about it because I don’t want to spoil you but guys, the blue cabin.. that just hit me so hard. When you read it, you’ll understand. Phew, I needed some time to get over that part.
There are people who compare this book to Station Eleven and I understand why but please don’t go into this book expecting the exact same thing. They are the same and still completely different. They both deserve their own spotlight. But yes, I think if you enjoyed Station Eleven (like I did), you’ll like this too.
It was a good read that packed quite the punch. The strongest part was the middle, the beginning and ending were not perfect but still really good. If you like these kinds of books, be sure to pick it up!
P.S. This book is now available. You can find it here (Bookdepository) and everywhere else.