Thanks to the author for the free copy in exchange for my honest review.
CRICKLEWOOD GREEN – Eric Borys (out now!)
Recently cut from the Michigan woods, the new gated community of Cricklewood Green promised peace and discount luxury to its residents. Instead, a computer-virus collapse of the U.S. power grid has dropped them into the red-hot crucible of a coast-to-coast national emergency. No lights, no phones. Many guns, not enough water. While absent, overwhelmed authorities grapple with insurrection and restoring systems, a dozen unfamiliar neighbors come together to face the militant, the mad and shrinking resources while cradling their own humanity.
Each character’s close-quarter take on the breakdown and one another examines the puzzle of a crisis. Some of the heroic falter and some of the shamed are redeemed in this menacing, hyper-real new frontier. All of them we recognize – the retirees and doctors, the auto execs and their wives, their children and the security guards – straddling their slipped dreams of Just Yesterday and the preying hunger of Now.
My Thoughts: 3.5/5 stars
While I don’t really frequent the dystopian/post-apocalyptic genre there are a few that I’ll pick up when there’s more of a suspense vibe to it. CRICKLEWOOD GREEN definitely checked that box for me when it came to suspense. What I enjoyed the most from this book was the writing. The author does a great job setting the scene, creating the atmosphere, and bringing us into that unstable environment with the characters.
Imagine moving into a nice and brand new gated community. A nice neighborhood with young families, retirees, and security guards. Now, imagine the power grid dropping throughout the country. You’re now thrust into a completely new world. Can you band together with your neighbors to protect each other? Who can you trust?
I think the author captured some real emotions within these characters. A lot of tough situations and decisions to be made, and he really makes you think, “what would I do in this situation?” This was a solid suspense/dystopian read and I would highly recommend it. The only reason why I dropped it a little bit from a solid 4 star is because I wish we could have focused in more on a few of the characters as opposed to a wider cast. Some voices get lost in the mix that way. Despite things coming together in the end, it felt like things were left open in a way to potentially set up for another book. Guess we’ll see what’s in store!
Some Info from the Author:
Tell us about Cricklewood Green…
Well, I like to call it a crisis novel. The theme is familiar. A group of people are united by dangerous circumstances and they come together – or not – for their survival. That’s the who and why. It’s set in contemporary rural Michigan in a new guard-gated and walled community called Cricklewood Green. It’s pretty isolated, with only one small town nearby. That’s the where. A computer virus collapse of the entire Unites States power grid is the catalyst. So, you have a group of unfamiliar neighbors, strangers to each other, basically, and resources are limited. Water, food, fuel. Some threats outside the walls want in. No law to rely on and nearly everyone’s armed. The ingredients for one hell of a social experiment.
Post-apocalyptic society seems to be a whole new genre of fiction…
Yes. Scores of novels have done that very well, zombie fiction and what have you. “Cricklewood Green” doesn’t quite fit into that. I consciously set the book over an approximate eight-week period. There’s still a functioning government. A functioning military. There are TV and radio broadcasts. Even jets and helicopters flying overhead. But every authority is horribly over-extended. Parts of the country and military believe the outage is a plot and they push back against that authority. Cricklewood Green is caught in the middle. I think that makes for a more interesting landscape than an End-Times theme, with sort of neo-medieval tribes forming and warlords and things.
A temporary situation makes the temptations and strain on your better and worse angels even greater. If it’s the end of the world, well, fine. Make your own rules. But if laws and morals and our standards of society are just around the corner – you can watch them happening on TV if your generator works – how much weight will they bear against your justifications of violence or behavior out in the trees and the back roads? Again, it’s a crisis. The familiar refrain from people in those situations – “we did what we had to do at the time…”. Now, stretch that balance over eight weeks.
If you had to put Cricklewood Green in a genre category what would it be?
Oh God, this makes me sound like such a snob… I’d say a literary thriller. Ugh, the words taste terrible in my mouth (laughs). See, some of my favorite authors would be called genre writers. Harlan Ellison, James Ellroy, David Morrell. Their work has amazing depth, great characters and craft. If I could be half as good as any of them… My favorite novelist is probably Robert Stone. His books have a way of putting you inside the characters first. Then as the threads of the plot gradually draw them in, they draw you in as well. With “Cricklewood Green” I first want to make you care about the people. Before the blackout you learn their desires, angsts, worries, petty jealousies. Our own day-to-day. Then, when the gunfire breaks and the body count starts, you’re hopefully going to feel something for them.
In the book I refer to a quote by Robert Burns – “Oh would some Power the gift give us, to see ourselves as others see us.” I tell the story from the perspectives of different characters. In life, everyone is the hero of their own story. Then you get another character’s perspective of that person. So, maybe they’re not so great. Or maybe they are. Chances are a bit of both. Put all the viewpoints together and you might come to some human truth. I love James Jones’ novel, “The Thin Red Line”. He used this method to great effect, I think.
Would you say it’s a hopeful book or more dystopian?
Hmmmm. Yes and no? (smiles). I can’t set it that black and white. I don’t think there are heroes in life. There are heroic acts. Any one of us is capable of doing the right or wrong thing, for the right or wrong reasons, in a certain situation. Say you’re trapped in a burning car or a building. Some stranger breaks you out and saves your life. Later you find out that person is a murderer or child abuser. How do you process that, as an individual, compared to the group? Where does your judgment take over? I absolutely agree we need judgment, as a society. It’s totally human and we all do it, every day. But it’s a tricky emotion. Maybe judgment is part of the trouble we’re having with the republic? I don’t know. To me, the most dangerous humans are the ones who know that they’re right.