Published March 22, 2014 by The World Made Fresh Inc.
Source: Paperback from publisher for this review.
High school student and obsessive journal writer Rylie Kirklen is having a difficult sophomore year. A heavy load of classwork, overly competitive friends and a serious sports injury have made the first weeks of school a living hell. She finally gets the chance to relax by herself for a few days when her parents leave to celebrate their anniversary in Key West, but even that respite is cut short when the lights go out one night. What begins with a quiet candlelit evening deteriorates into a desperate situation for Rylie’s community as the power stays off for weeks. Resources and information run short while rumors abound, and her circumstances are worsened as her parents remain absent long after they were expected home. A complete breakdown of public services makes for a very harsh world when people who are used to the comforts of modern society try to survive a new, lawless reality. Rylie discovers for herself the dangers of a populace in despair as she fends off attackers, buries friends, and takes a daring road trip through a treacherous urban landscape in an effort to find help. With her parents missing and the world she once knew crumbling around her, Rylie chronicles her struggle to navigate the boundary between her comfortable past and an uncertain dystopian tomorrow.
Everyone knows how much I love apocalypse stories and this one was sure to hold my attention.
Rylie finds herself in a situation that she had never expected. She starts to realize what is most important with life and how things can change and may not always be exactly what they seem to be. During her time alone, she must grow up a lot and she really does!
I really enjoyed Rylie’s story and the fact that it was written like journal entries was a unique spin on the book itself. I enjoyed hearing about all of the different characters and there were times that my heart broke for all of them.
The ending was kind of anti-climatic for me. I guess that I was expecting more oomph, but the book did end in a neat little package with all ends tied up nicely.
A highly suggested read for those that enjoy “end of the world” reads. The storyline was very life-like and real. The characters are people that we all have in our own neighborhoods and I really enjoyed the “journal” entries. Definitely looking forward to more from this author!
Where did the idea come from for this book?
My family lives in a house on a corner lot and we have a trio of windows that allow us to look down both of the streets. I imagine that it would be the perfect spot to keep an eye on the neighborhood. One day I had this picture in my head of my daughter, years from now, watching a group of strangers through the windows as they came up the street while she was stuck at home alone during a natural disaster. I started writing some notes and the story got bigger and bigger and came to life, and Speed of Light came to be.
Are your characters based off of people you know or are they purely fictional?
The main character, Rylie Kirklen, is based on an imaginary version of my daughter as a teenager. The rest are fictional. That being said, it would be disingenuous for me to tell you that different people didn’t pop into my mind as I was developing each one of them. But none of my secondary characters are based on any single person in my life.
Whom is your favorite author?
Donna Tartt, which makes for a very frustrating reading life at times. I discovered her when The Secret History was published while I was in high school in 1993. I would visit Waldenbooks (remember them?) every month to see if she had anything new coming out. They’d check the microfiche (remember that?) and tell me that the release date had been pushed back again. TEN YEARS LATER, The Little Friend was published. Of course, it was awesome. And then I waited for another ten years for The Goldfinch. I hope I live long enough to see her next book.
If you could compare your writing to another author, whom would it be and why?
I would hope that my writing compares to Tim O’Brien. I know that’s a huge invocation because he produced one of the greatest books of the 20th century with The Things They Carried, and I have a very long way to go before I produce a masterpiece like that. Tim O’Brien has a style that is very clean and well-paced, giving detail where it is needed and leaving enough to the reader’s imagination that they can inject their own pleasures or horrors into the story running through their head. He is a master of getting to the point or being sentimental at just the right times. All of these are things I strive for in my writing.
Your favorite character from any book? What makes you enjoy this particuliar character?
My favorite character of all time is Arnold Spirit Jr., also known as “Junior”, from Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. I love this guy because he has everything going against him from the moment he was born but he has the personal strength to push himself to greater heights than he ever imagined. There are times where Junior struggles with the consequences of trying to break out of a cycle of poverty, and he reminds me of a lot of kids that I’ve taught over the years in the local public schools. Many of my students faced similar issues in their families and neighborhoods, and there are times in the book where I feel like I’m reading their life stories.
Flavor ice cream?
Vanilla Bean. I’m boring, but I could make a meal out of it (and have).
Fall! Turning leaves, the promise of a new school year, baseball playoffs, Halloween, college football, the chill in the air, and my daughter’s birthday (which we celebrate heartily) all make for a great season.
Genre to write?
Science fiction. I’m working on something cool for release in December and it’s been a lot of fun to put together.
Genre to read?
I can’t pinpoint just one genre. If a story holds my attention, then I love it and will tell everyone about it and seek out the author’s other works. I love True Grit as much as I loveWool. I love The Book Thief as much as I love The Things They Carried and Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen. For me, all it takes is a good story and you got me!
Giraffe. There’s no explanation for it.
Thank you Scott for the review copy and for answering my questions!