Review: White Horse by Alex Adams

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books (April 17, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 1451642997
  • Source: Publisher

Thirty-year-old Zoe Marshall work as a janitor for Pope Pharmaceuticals. One day, she returns home to find a jar sitting in her apartment. The source of the jar is unknown. It becomes an obsession for Zoe and a topic of frequent discussion with her psychologist. She takes the jar to a museum curator for investigation.

Meanwhile, a virus is raging her town. The symptoms are similar to a stomach virus. Soon, everyone in her apartment building who also happens to own a cat is sick and eventually dies. The virus quickly spreads, dubbed the White Horse by a televangelist after one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Ninety percent of the population is killed by the virus; Zoe is one of those individuals who appears to be immune. Others who are found to be immune form mutations, like gills, tails, snakes growing from their heads like hair.

When it becomes obvious that everyone she loves around her has died, Zoe embarks upon a mission to find her new love, Nick, her psychologist. Nick left just as the virus was starting to spread; he felt what he thought were symptoms and disappears, heading to Greece to find out if his parents are still alive.  When Zoe finds out she is pregnant, her mission becomes more dire and urgent. Along the way, she meets several unique characters, including a man only referred to as “the Swiss,” a man set on destroying the abominations created by the virus, including Zoe’s unborn child. The reader follows Zoe on her journey, the storyline alternating between past and present.  Zoe, a woman once sheltered by the bubble of family and friends surrounding her, must branch out, escape everything that is comfortable to her, in order to survive.

Zoe’s character is quite a strong one. It was thrilling to watch her evolution as an individual, starting out as a meek woman during her therapy sessions with Nick to a strong, courageous individual.  She was a truly good and pure character, very apparent as compared to those individuals who were dark and evil. As she travels on her journey, she can’t help but reflect upon herself as an individual and on humanity as a whole.

While the storyline does alternate between past and present, I didn’t feel as though this took away from the overall story or was confusing. Each heading is broken up into “Now” and “Then,” making it easy for the reader to discern the timing.

Due to its subject matter, White Horse is not a light book in any manner. I found it quite reminiscent to the disparity and desperation of The Road by Cormac McCarthy. There is quite a bit of retelling of the devastation suffered by the victims, and survivors, of White Horse. That said, there is quite a bit of hope scattered throughout, lightening the mood just a bit.

White Horse is the first in an apocalyptic trilogy. I’m impatiently waiting for the next volume. The intensity of this novel carries, unrelenting, throughout the entirety of the novel, the last few lines leaving me breathless.  Adams’ writing is unique, so powerful in its simplicity at times, yet overflowing with meaning at others. This is a tremendous debut, one I recommend highly.