Title: Exodus (Extinction Point Book 2)
Authors: Paul Antony Jones
Star Rating: * * *
Genre: Dystopia, Sci-fi/Science Thriller
Emily and her dog are making their way to Alaska after the devastation caused by the alien red rain in Extinction Point. One day they stumble across a valley with a unique microclimate that has allowed it to escape the effects of the red rain, and Emily discovers three survivors: Simon and his two children, Ben and Rhiannon. While trying to escape with them, Simon is killed by a new type of alien creature, and Ben is infected and begins to change into some sort of alien hybrid. Only Emily, Rhiannon, and the dog make it out of the mainland US and into the wilderness of Alaska, but the scientists they meet have not been telling the whole truth…
In comparison to the previous novel in this series, the writing in Exodus has improved substantially. Emily does more than just gather supplies, and readers start to see some payoff in regards to the changes caused by the events of Extinction Point. The most significant example of these improvements is the part of the book dealing with Simon and his children. When Emily tries to convince Simon to leave, she is shown a terrible red storm sweeping across the nation by the scientists in Alaska. It is rapidly terraforming the entire country, and this convinces Simon that he must travel with Emily in order to keep his children safe. Simon leaves to steal an SUV for their journey, but when he doesn’t come back, Emily takes the children to search for him. However, Simon is no longer fully human. Even in the darkness of the night, Emily can see that he is being controlled by three strange tentacles coming out of the back of his head. A strange, new alien creature is using Simon’s body like a puppet, and it tries to lure Emily and the children to their deaths as well. The author creates a very chilling and suspenseful environment where it seems like our protagonists have no way to escape, and may be facing horrors that they cannot mentally cope with. I was absolutely terrified. I jumped at every little sound as I read this part of the book, and may have had a hard time going to sleep afterwards. (Maybe.) The scene felt like something out of a Stephen King novel, and I say this as a compliment to the author’s ability to convey pure horror and terror.
When Emily discovers a grove of strange trees that grow bubbles that look like fetal incubators, she states that she feels a malevolence coming from them. She is convinced that the creatures that will be birthed from these trees are evil, and uses what happens to Simon as a way of confirming her opinion. As someone who is interested in world building in sci-fi books, however, it bothers me when something like an alien species is introduced as vast and unfathomable , but is then described as having very human traits. While the actions of the alien creature seem reprehensible to Emily and the remaining human survivors, is the alien actually attempting to cause pain and harm or is its biology something we simply cannot understand as human beings? Being that so very little information has been uncovered about the red storm that changed Earth, readers have no idea whether the aliens are aggressive or whether they just operate very differently from our own species. While calling something evil is supposed to increase tension, the fear of the unknown can be even more effective, particularly when dealing with entities that are not human as you cannot predict their behaviour or motivations.
One other downside to this novel is that once Simon’s possession is over, there are few suspenseful scenes left throughout the rest of the book. Not to say that nothing occurs (for instance, there are significant and emotional consequences resulting from Ben’s interaction with the alien in the valley), but there are long stretches of the work that describe a fairly boring road trip to Alaska. This is a common problem for books with a portion dedicated to travelling across some sort of inhospitable landscape, and very little was done to alleviate the monotony of this section of the novel. The stakes seem much lower in the latter half of the book, and even the bits of action that do arise don’t seem to result in much in the way of consequences. I didn’t feel very worried about Emily’s journey, and I should have been gripping the book in terror over whether she and Rhia, two of the last remaining humans, made it to Alaska alive.
Exodus was an extremely large improvement in comparison to the first novel of this series. It was more exciting, and parts of the novel had me legitimately terrified (don’t read scary alien stories in a dark, new house when you aren’t familiar with all of its idiosyncratic noises). While the writing is still sometimes rough, I will actively seek out book three of the series because I really really want to know how the alien invasion is going to end (and if it’s an alien invasion at all!). Exodus deserved its higher rating, and I feel comfortable recommending the series as a whole to others who are interested in this type of dystopic writing.