Review: Far From The War

AUTHOR: Jeffrey David Payne
SERIES: None
PUBLISHER: Roche Harbor
PUBLICATION DATE: July 24, 2011
ISBN:2940013103856
PAGES: 366
SOURCE: review request from publisher
GENRE: Post-apocalypse/Survival
RECOMMENDED FOR: upper HS, adults
OVERALL RATING: Neutral opinion. 2/5 stars.

SUMMARY: Eager to begin a career in politics, seventeen-year old Esther lands a coveted position as a White House page. But soon after she arrives in Washington, D.C., a violent effort to take over the U.S. government gets underway. With the entire country in a state of martial law, Esther tries to travel cross-country to her island home near Oregon, but her efforts are dramatically hindered by a failing transportation system, no phones or electricity, and bombs raining down on major cities.

WHAT I LIKED: I always love a good post-apocalyptic survival story, and it was interesting to read about how quickly things could break down in the event of a White House coup. Esther is tough, smart, and driven to survive. She is very serious much of the time and doesn’t waste time with a bunch of shenanigans or worry about what everyone else is doing. While she probably would not be much fun to hang around with, I have to respect her focus.

When Esther finally meets Matthew, I was reminded of Hemingway’s classic A Farewell to Arms, the story of two people who fall in love in a hospital amidst WWI, when the world is falling apart around them. The romance part of the story, albeit short, is sweet and timeless.

Payne sets up an interesting conflict for the sequel, and despite my lukewarm reception for this book, a sequel may be better. I probably won’t read it, but I’ve seen lots of positive reviews for Far From the War. Considering the unresolved ending, a sequel is certainly appropriate.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE: I think what bothers me most about this book is that it was pitched to me as a “dystopian romance,” which happens to be my favorite genre and was the reason I chose to review Far From the War in the first place. It is really neither. A dystopia features a repressed, tightly controlled society that tries to pass itself off as utopian, or a perfect way to live. Far From the War is a war-torn society where out of control violence terrorizes individuals. Further, a dystopia typically features a much more complex form of government, with lots of freedom-curbing laws and a type of passive coercion over the people. The citizens may not agree with it, but they go about their daily lives as best they can because they feel powerless to fight. Far From the War is really more a speculative look at a modern-day civil war in the United States than a true dystopia.

The romance part is really inaccurate as well. Yes, there is romance, but it is only a couple of chapters that occur very late in the story. While the romance was sweet, I never felt much chemistry between Esther and Matthew. Matthew’s appearance is so brief, readers hardly even get the chance to know Matthew. I guess I was just expecting something else and was simply disappointed.

The story took forever to get going. The war doesn’t actually start until about 100 pages in. The politics of being a White House page just isn’t interesting enough to keep me turning the pages. It was a struggle to finish the book, despite the huge increase in action and brutal conflict toward the end.

CONTENT:

  • Language: mild; I really can’t remember any language
  • Sexuality: high; two brutal rape scenes; some kissing
  • Violence: extremely high; two rape scenes and allusions to other rapes, several bloody murders, detailed descriptions of what it’s like to be in an air raid, detailed description of frostbite
  • Drugs/Alcohol: medium; underage drinking is still illegal, but the society at war does not care about the drinking age

    STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: We don’t have it. The large amount of politics and violence make it too high for a middle school library

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