Apocalypse: Diary of a Survivor may be my new favorite book, which means I will now have to read everything author Matt Pike has written or will write.
Set in the present day, starting in April 2014, the book follows the life of Australian teenager Jack, just before and after a giant dark comet unexpectedly hits Earth and causes an apocalypse. It’s written as a diary, which Pike explained in a Q&A at the end of the book was inspired by his great-grandfather’s WWI diary. The idea was to make the story more personal by incorporating day-to-day events with life-changing ones. And it works really well.
Pike manages to capture the essence of a teenager, coupled with the devastation and effects of losing so much, so quickly. He clearly researched all the details, and this a believable tale of death and destruction. There is also quite a bit of emphasis put on the weather conditions, which would play a significant part in an actual apocalyptic scenario.
One of the most interesting aspects of apocalyptic stories is the beginning stages, when the characters have to rebuild their world and learn survival skills. Jack is very resourceful, and his preparations before the catastrophe help him to survive. I also liked all the details about Adelaide, the city in Australia where the main story takes place. Though I have never been, this book details its geography and culture, and as I was reading I could practically hear the words being said in an Aussie accent. (I’ll admit, a couple times it took me a minute to remember that July in Australia is winter.)
Pike also does an excellent job of showing how different people would react in that terrible situation, ranging from violence to hiding to giving each other support. The need for a support network, in particular, is emphasized throughout the story. Some people rise up as leaders, and the way everyone interacts with each other changes quickly, particularly as food supplies start to run low.
Jack also has a love interest, who comes into his life a bit unexpectedly. But their relationship grows strong in a short amount of time, as they learn to work together for their survival. they encourage each other, and it makes a big difference in terms of giving them a will to live and keep going.
So many horrible things happen that Jack has to witness, but his diary also gives insight into his age. For example, some days he needs a break, and he spends hours playing games to relax. He also watches movies occasionally to make life feel normal again, for a short period of time. And he plans special dates for his girlfriend.
He’s a very thoughtful and complex character, who I very much hope to learn more about in a sequel, should Pike choose to write one. Without giving the ending away, let’s just say there seems to be even bigger changes in store for Jack, both emotionally and in terms of his environment.