The Dead-Tossed Waves
The Dead-Tossed Waves is Carrie Ryan’s follow up to the lyrical and moving The Forest of Hands and Teeth. Like the first novel The Dead-Tossed Wavesis about growing up in post-apocalyptic community constantly threatened by the presence of zombies. The novel follows Gabry and young girl in the coastal village of Vista. Vista is something of an insular community despite being under the protection of the Coalition and as a result the current generation of young adults knows next to nothing about the world before the Return. The Mudo, the zombies, are a constant threat but one so pervasive that the danger of the presence has engendered complacency rather than caution and a sort of callousness, or perhaps willful ignorance, as to the full impact of the undead presence. It is that complacency that serves as the gateway for the tragedy that propels the rest of the novel forward and sends Gabry on the run.
The Dead-Tossed Waves is structured similarly to The Forest of Hands and Teeth. Both of the main characters are forced to flee their homes and both are troubled by romantic triangles. While The Forest of Hands and Teeth dealt with a physically isolated community rigidly kept apart from the rest of the world The Dead-Tossed Waves similarly deals with a community that has enforced isolation despite acknowledging the presence of the outside world. While the similarities lend the novel an air of familiarity Ryan’s careful and subtle expansion of her world gives the novel a more open feeling compared to the previous novel’s claustrophobia.
Where Mary’s rebellion in The Forest of Hands and Teeth is somewhat predicated by her attraction to someone else rather than the boy chosen for her makes the romance of that novel essential to the plot Gabry’s romantic difficulties in The Dead-Tossed Waves feel less central to the proceedings than they probably ought. In truth the romance between Catcher and Gabry felt more believable in the novel and the complication that romance suffers early on was far more interesting and emotionally stirring than the additional complication of Elias as a romantic interest. As Gabry’s attraction to both Elias and Catcher occupied a significant portion of her mental landscape it was far less compelling to me as a reader as some of the novels other conflicts.
Ryan also uses The Dead-Tossed Waves to add new elements to the world but is extraordinarily careful in introducing only those elements that manage to impact the plot in a meaningful way. The Coalition, a cult that uses zombies in rather disturbing ways, and other more-spoiler-related elements that I won’t reveal lend an urgency to the novel that would otherwise have been impossible. All this is done without lengthy expository passages instead growing organically out of those sections when and where something new is needed. The narrative never drifts from Gabry’s perspective and while reader’s constantly learn new aspects of the world they most often serve only to heighten Gabry’s external and internal conflicts.
On many levels The Dead-Tossed Waves is a stronger book than its predecessor. I felt like it unfolded at a quicker pace and while Ryan doesn’t examine the history surrounding the Return the way she explores the world as it is lends the novel a bigger feel. The similar plot structure to The Forest of Hands and Teeth seems like a bit of a crutch and the continued reliance of the love triangle feels like a misstep. By and large both these aspects are outshine by the novels merits. Some might call Ryan’s language and phrasing overdrawn but as for myself I think the languid and evocative language employs perfectly suits the tone of the narrative. The Dead-Tossed Waves is also admirable in that it is closer to a companion novel rather than a true sequel. While readers of the first novel will certain get a little more out The Dead-Tossed Waves it remain an approachable novel for those who have not. Ryan’s command of her craft is admirable and I look forward to seeing where her ever-increasing world goes The Dark and Hollow Places.