Review - Those that Wake by Jesse Karp

Those That Wake - Jesse Karp

Set in a New York of the near future and people are mostly oblivious of each other and the world around them. Instead they choose technology as a constant companion. Cell phones in particular have become essential in their day-to-day existence. Electronic devices have replaced human interaction and people are now reliant on digital media.

A terrorist attack some time after 9/11, called Big Black, caused huge explosions and power outages across New York and the resulting damage (both physical and mental) has never been repaired. The ground level damage has simply been covered over with a huge dome which can be seen for miles around. People say it now contains toxic substances, although there is no concrete evidence. The easiest way to deal with the decay and devestation is to keep their heads down and their eyes averted. The only thing guaranteed to get a person's attention are the huge HD screens which have replaced the windows in the old subway cars. These screens constantly bombard captive audiences on the transport system with advertising campaigns, slogans and infomercials. Corporations now run the entire world and the audiences, who are hooked on digital media, are easy targets.

The story is told from the perspective of 4 unconnected characters. Each has their own story to tell and gradually, by piecing each persons tale together, we come to realise they're all hold answers to help complete the big picture. Mal's brother Tommy has disappeared without a trace, Laura has ceased to exist for everyone who has ever known her - including her parents, Mike has found a door in the basement of his school which appears to lead to a place that can't exist and Remak is a secret agent investigating strange occurrences in the neighbourhood. These four people are thrown together in strange circumstances and find themselves in a terrifying and bizarre situation and they will all have to work together if they are ever to discover what's really going on....and how to stop it.

The cover is gloomy and depressing and judging by cover alone it looked like it was right up my street. There wasn't a lot to go on, but the blurb led me to believe it might be on the dystopian side so I jumped at the chance to give it a go. This is a debut title so I went into it with an open mind and no high hopes...

It's the kind of book that makes you take a step back and think. It seems to be a cautionary tale and I couldn't help but compare the world I was reading about and our own that I live in. How many gadgets and electronic devices do you use on a daily basis? How quickly would you fall apart without them? Yeah. Me too.

This is a very hard book to pigeon-hole. It's a dystopian, dark fantasy, horror story with liberal doses of science fiction and weirdness thrown in.

From literally the first few pages I was grabbed by the scruff of the neck and flung into the story. As I've mentioned I am the slowest reader. Usually. I read this whole book, all 300+ pages of it, in a few hours and could not put it down.


I thought it was purely dystopian at the beginning but as I read on some things started to take on a menacing air and the horror started to seep in. However, it's not scary blood and gore type horror it's more of a sinister background horror that you only see glimpses of.

The character development is great and I really felt the terror that was bubbling just underneath the surface for each person as their story unfolded. I really felt like I knew these people. I cared about what happened to them and had my fingers crossed that things would work out for them. Likewise the world building is full and realised. I got a real feel for how hopeless and lost everything was. It all seemed dark and grey and dismal but by seeing it through the eyes of Mal, Laura, Mike and Remak I was hopeful that solutions were just on the horizon if only they could piece together the puzzle. Their characters grew right before my eyes and even Mike (who I wasn't that fond of for most of the story) developed a depth of character that I hadn't seen in the beginning.

I was left guessing all the way through the story. Some new piece of info would be shared and I would think "Ah ha! That's what's behind it all. I bet I know what's coming...." Only to be foiled by another piece of info and taken back to square one.

Now then, the ending, the conclusion and the reveal of all... I have no clue what the hell happened there at the end. Not. A. Clue. It all sort of whooshed over my head and I had a hard time understanding what was said, far less what was happening. I think that has more to do with me than with the story though. The ending is really, really complex and to stop and re-read passages over and over again until I got it would have torn me out of the story so I just trusted that Mr Karp knew what he was on about and took things on trust. Better just to surrender to it and let things unfold.

The only little niggle I have with any of it was that it felt a little preachy at the end. A little bit... The internet and all things globally interactive seem to put us in a great position to interact with each other and broaden our horizons, but actually the world is shrinking and we're becoming even more isolated than when we started. Carry on the way we're going in this age of the internet and all hell will break loose. I get it.

This title is billed for ages 12+ but I think it may hold more appeal for a slightly older audience.  I seem to be in a minority with this one as lots of people don't like it, but I thought it was great :)