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BOOK REVIEW: Thirst by Benjamin Warner

BOOK REVIEW: Thirst by Benjamin Warner

Bloomsbury
July 2016
Paperback, $27.99
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell

Literary Thriller / Post Apocalypse

5/10

On a searing summer Friday, Eddie Gardner has been stuck for hours in a traffic jam. There are accidents along the highway, but ambulances and police are conspicuously absent. When he decides to abandon his car and run home, he sees that the trees along the edge of a stream have been burnt, and the water in the streambed is gone. Something is very wrong.

When he arrives home, the power is out and there is no running water. The pipes everywhere, it seems, have gone dry. Eddie and his wife, Laura, find themselves thrust together with their neighbors while a sense of unease thickens in the stifling night air.

Thirst takes place in the immediate aftermath of a mysterious disaster–the Gardners and their neighbors suffer the effects of the heat, their thirst, and the terrifying realization that no one is coming to help. As violence rips through the community, Eddie and Laura are forced to recall secrets from their past and question their present humanity. In crisp and convincing prose, Ben Warner compels readers to do the same. What might you do to survive?

 

Warner’s descriptions throughout this book are honest, grimy, harrowing, and tangible, leaving the reader thirsty and in need of constant bathing.

It was important not to resist sleep entirely; that was his strategy. He would indulge it quickly and then be on his way. But soon, the mosquitoes were on him. The way they struck all at once, they seemed to have only just found their way down the hill, or the scent of his body was the only animal scent remaining. He had to bury himself—heaping the ash over his legs, then his chest, then spreading it on his face using his fingers to mush into the creases of his ears—to keep from being eaten.

But it is perhaps in the style of writing that this book both hooked and lost this reader somewhat.

The execution is gorgeous, but there is something of a disconnect in the substance.

He ran and his legs did not give up. He would run until he caught the boy or until the thirst vanished and he could run no more. He was going as fast as he could go with his eyes open, but then a strange revelation arrived. He suspected he could go even faster with them closed.
It was true.
Seeing had only been slowing him down. With his eyes closed, the ground turned to air and his body made no sound. He couldn’t feel his legs moving or his jaw aching. He couldn’t feel the flutter in his chest.

Seeing had only been slowing him down. With his eyes closed, the ground turned to air and his body made no sound. He couldn’t feel his legs moving or his jaw aching. He couldn’t feel the flutter in his chest.

And while there are scenes and dialogue that suggest urgency, it is lost in the long stretches of description between discussions.

“There’s no water in the stream, is there?”
“I’m sure there’s water in the stream.”
“Have you been down there, Eddie? Did you see that it was empty? It’s like beneath the bridge, isn’t it?”
“No. I haven’t been down there. There’s water in the stream.”
“Oh, God.”
“There’s water in the stream, Laura.”
“What’s happening?””

A bleak look at a slow and meandering death and destruction of society without liquid, there is a lot in Thirst that feels surreal, and it’s often hard to see where it’s going and what the point of it all is… but then, this kind of situation doesn’t have a point for those who are on the suffering end and don’t know what’s going on.

Much of this book felt as though it passed in a dream, without any real connection to what was going on, and hence without any real sense of urgency.

Many questions are left unanswered in terms of what and how, but again, these wouldn’t be answered for the people affected by but on the outside of this kind of situation.

I think perhaps I was hoping for more, but I’m not quite sure what.

You’ll probably find something to enjoy here if you like descriptions you can feel, but if you’re looking for a story that examines the fall-out for more than a handful of people, this isn’t it.

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: Thirst by Benjamin Warner

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