For those who think every post-apocalyptic novel is the same, City of Orange by David Yoon (Version Zero; Super Fake Love Song) argues otherwise. The opening is familiar: man wakes up in a desolate nowhere and can't remember his name or the traumas preceding this moment. But Yoon refuses to follow the typical script, taking readers on an often funny and always compelling journey through the mystery man's past, an alternative present and the uncertain future.
The novel begins in 2010 in California, all concrete and burned-out housing developments. Clearly, this is the wasteland that remains after a catastrophic event. Or is it? As the man scrabbles for food and shelter, his memories start to return, and readers learn what has brought him here, and whether he can survive. Yoon provides a mixture of dry humor and dark days, as when the main character questions his preoccupation with the detailed measurement of wind patterns: "He is not a hero in some adventure book about surviving against all odds. He is the guy who hides away procrastinating with string and cardboard. Last Surviving Member of Human Race Puts Things Off. He giggles at that headline." Readers will also laugh, even as they understand the desperation of his circumstances.
City of Orange also raises questions about time and money, and the stuff humans accumulate, while sharpening the focus on what really matters: family, love, and enduring friendships. Despite its dark premise, City of Orange insists on hope and continuity in the face of tragedy. --Sara Beth West, freelance reviewer and librarian