The internet, in all it’s messy democratic glory, has opened up the door for not only the exploration of new formats of storytelling but also to once explore formats of old. The notion of the “serial” is nothing new from Dickens,to radio, to television, to comics it is a long lived means of telling a story. In the 21st century the proliferation of the internet, and particularly its mobility, have opened the floodgates for the serial’s return. Sean Platt and David W. Wright are the founders of Collective Inkwell where they have focused on telling serialized stories. Recently, the duo signed a deal with Amazon’s 47North which is how I came to stumble upon the audiobook version of Yesterday’s Gone: Season 1.
I love postapocalyptic fiction, I have ever since I first read The Stand in my teens, so I decided to give Yesterday’s Gone a shot. The novel has an interesting premise: several people wake up one day to find that most everybody else in the world is gone. Each of the individuals who wake up seem to come from different walks of life with seemingly no rhyme or reason as to how they survived. As they begin to explore this new, empty world they begin to encounter strange scenes and horrifying creatures. Season One introduces readers to a variety of characters and, if truth be told, perhaps a few too many characters.
Four characters stand out as the most interesting: Luca, Edward, Charlie, and Boricio. Edward, an escaped fugitive at the start of the novel gets more and more interesting as the novel progresses. This culminates in a final and fascinating twist at the end of the novel. Luca, a young boy with strange powers is fascinating and the author’s really manage to capture the personality of a child quite well. Charlie, the son of a single mother with an abusive step-father, is an almost cookie cutter example of a geeky outsider whose anger at being ostracized by his peers and abused by his step-father leave him ripe for suggestion from a charismatic figure. Enter Boricio, a character who readers quickly learn is a serial killer but one with a wit and wisdom that makes his chapters tolerable, though it does not make him any more likable. These four characters form. While these characters to get the bulk of narrative Season One would have felt like a more focued narrative had it focused on a smaller cast of characters rather than the larger cast it does focus. Instead, while the novel opens strong the plot slows to a crawl in the middle third before taking off again as it heads towards its conclusion.
Season One of Yesterday’s Gone doesn’t offer a lot of answers about the central mysteries it introduces. It adds many complications and not a few twists and the author’s excel at pushing the boundaries of violence a bit towards the novel’s end. There is a moment in a bathroom towards the end of the novel that had me squirming in my seat. The fact the novel offers more questions than it does answers doesn’t really bother me. The mostly excellent pacing and fascinating premise push the novel forward. This is aided by a fascinating and diverse voice cast who by and large do an almost universally fantastic job at bring the book to life. While the book doesn’t bring any of the “big name” narrators out there, the folks at Podium Publishing have brought together a talented cast and produced a professional and exciting audiobook.
Now, I enjoyed the plot of Yesterday’s Gone and by and large I found the characters interesting and engaging. But Yesterday’s Gone: Season 1 has a major problem with the female perspective which by and large seems to be almost non-existent with some exceptions. Women in Yesterday’s Gone seem to be there to be rescued or protected, with very little variance. Mary Olson seems to be there only to defer to mysteriously sexy neighbor and to fret over her daughter’s well being. The closest Season 1 gets to a female protagonist is Mary’s daughter Paola but there is very little time spent with her; not nearly enough for to get a definitive bead on her character. While it happens “off screen” there is at least one rape in the novel. Charlie, who witnesses the GHB-induced rape, misinterprets the scene as consensual and runs off in a huff. So this rape serves as a “turning point” for Charlie and to solidify another character as a villain a fact which was already glaringly obvious. It’s stupid, unnecessary and serves nothing beyond shock value. [Note: I always turn to Jim C. Hines two-part post on writing about rape when I encounter it in fiction. I can’t think of any other resource that talks about it. Part 1 and Part 2]
Given the above I don’t know if I can honestly recommend Yesterday’s Gone: Season 1. I was definitely intrigued by the mysteries and engaged by some of the characters but there is an unevenness to the prose and a reliance on shock-value that seems a by-product of the form. Platt and Wright arent’s exactly veterans so there is a chance things improve as the series progresses but given the author’s include a “Warning” in the publisher’s summary I don’t think my major complaints will be addressed. However, if you a junkie for postapocayptic fiction that I think you can safely give Season 1 shot.