Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Lives We Lost by Megan Crewe

The Lives We Lost is the second book in the post-apocalyptic Fallen Worlds trilogy by Canadian author, Megan Crewe. Kaelyn's friend, Leo, arrives unexpectedly on the island ferry with news about the mainland. To the shock of everyone, Leo tells those on the island that the virus had infected nearly everyone in both Canada, the United States, and most likely the world. Everyone is just as badly off as those on the island and help will not be forthcoming.

As the pandemic continues to rage, Kaelyn is now sharing a house with her boyfriend, Gav, her cousin Meredith, and Tessa and the recently returned Leo. When Kaelyn finds the keys to her father's research center, she decides to investigate to see if he had made any progress in developing a treatment for the virus. She finds the lab intact, her father's notes on his research into a cure, and several vials of vaccine. Apparently her father injected himself with vaccine three weeks before he was murdered, so Kaelyn feels certain that he must have found an antidote for the illness.

Kaelyn approaches Nell at the hospital, telling her about the find and asking her if she can make more. But Nell tells Kaelyn that she doesn't have the expertise. So Kaelyn decides that she must travel to the mainland to find someone who can replicate her father's work and produce more vaccine.

Initially Kaelyn and Gav decide they will make the journey to Ottawa in the hopes of locating scientists. But when the island is attacked by a military helicopter, they along with Leo, Meredith, and Tessa flee, with the help of a mainlander who came to warn them. This man, Tobias Rawls, is a young soldier from a nearby, secret military base on mainland Nova Scotia. Tobias has an armoured vehicle and he is asked to join them on their trek to Ottawa. After scavenging supplies from nearby stores, the group sets out.

As expected, things do not go as planned. Just as they enter New Brunswick, they run out of gas. When the group goes to look for fuel, their truck is vandalized and they must now walk on foot to Ottawa. Packing as much supplies as possible onto sleds they continue their journey on foot by following a major highway. However, those who vandalized them are not so eager to see them leave. Kaelyn's group narrowly escapes these people who are armed and driving a green van, by hiding in the forest by the highway. They continue onward traveling in the woods adjacent to the highway until they arrive at a hidden colony run by Hilary Cloutier. The colony was once an artist's colony for painters, writers, and composers to spend some time working on their craft. At the colony they meet a woman from Ottawa who tells them that traveling to the capital will be pointless because the government and scientists have abandoned the city.

So Kaelyn and her friends, Gav, Leo, and Tobias decide to travel to Toronto because of its numerous hospitals and the higher probability of locating researchers who might be able to make vaccine. Kaelyn decides to leave Meredith with Tessa who has opted to stay behind at the colony. But before they can set out, the unknown people in the van search the colony. Everyone hides, the vigilantes leave and the group manages to flee safely, although they have now unwittingly picked up Hilary's son, Justin, an unpredictable teenager who doesn't fully understand the dangers involved.

Kaelyn's goal now is to try to arrive safely in Toronto with the vaccine. But Kaelyn has an unknown group pursuing her and they seem to know that she has a vaccine. When they arrive in Toronto, Gav falls ill with the virus. Leo and Kaelyn learn that a man from British Columbia, Michael, has risen to take control of every area he passes through by offering food and medicine to those who will side with him. Known as Michael's Wardens, they are now in pursuit of Kaelyn. Can she outwit her pursuers and keep the vaccine from falling into the wrong hands?Can Kaelyn save both Gav and Tobias?

Crewe's novel is a decent second installment in the Fallen World series. Kaelyn and her group must deal with the winter weather, a lack of food, the ever present danger of contracting the virus, and the knowledge that they are being pursued by hostile survivors. However, for the most part, any hardships the group encounters seem to be easily remedied and any suspense created by their pursuers is not sustained. Instead the focus is on the main characters having to accept the fact that the lives they once had are gone forever - a point Kaelyn returns to again and again. They are hopeful that a vaccine might make their lives what they once were.
" 'I don't want our lives to stay like this, ' he said. 'I don't know if this vaccine is going to make a difference, but it could. It's the best chance we've got. I want to fight for that....' "
Kaelyn is presented as a strong female character who, although having doubts, generally seems completely determined to find someone who can replicate her father's vaccine even though she's not certain that the vaccine works. (There is a hint that it does because both Gav and Tobias were not innoculated and by the end of the novel, they are now sick. Tessa and Leo were and remain healthy.) Even when she witnesses the unintended murder of the three people tailing them, she seems to quickly recover. Even when Gav becomes desperately ill, Kaelyn still remains focused on her goal - to get the vaccines to someone who can make more of the same.

The basic storyline is somewhat predictable - we knew that both Gav and Tobias would likely sicken after Gav refuses the vaccine and Kaelyn doesn't offer Tobias an inoculation. And we know it's predictable that they would be pursued by someone wanting what they have. Having an army man who just happens to be a crack shot,  along for the adventure turns out to come in quite handy too. There's the hint of a love triangle, with Kaelyn loving Gav, but unable to admit to herself that she is attracted to her best friend, Leo who is put out when his girlfriend, Tessa, seems more interested in gardening than being with him. But it all makes for an enjoyable read and a suspenseful but hanging ending to the second novel.

Book Details:
The Lives We Lost by Megan Crewe
New York: Hyperion    2013
276 pp.

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