All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Chasers – James Phelan

on September 3, 2010

I first heard about this book just the other day when I did my post on Get Reading 2010 and was looking through the guide of the 50 Books You Can’t Put Down. This one seemed interesting and when I saw it yesterday in Big W (a dept store like Walmart etc) for 10 bucks, I snapped it up. It’s Australian author James Phelan’s first foray into YA and he tackles post-apocalyptic fiction.

Jesse is a 16yo boy from Australia visiting New York on a UN Ambassador’s camp. He’s on a subway with 3 other friends he’s made on the camp – Dave a confident American boy, English girl Anna and Taiwanese Mini – when an explosion rocks the train. When Jesse comes to almost an hour later, he and his friends are the only survivors on the subway and they decide to find a way out before they are engulfed by a fireball like the one they just escaped or smashed into by another train.

Out on the streets, it’s chaos. Buildings are falling down, the streets are a mess of crashed cars and vehicles, there are no people. And then there are people and to the kids horror, these people are either very dead or…not right. They are infected by something, possessed where they crave liquids. An unquenchable thirst where they will drink anything available to them. Muddy water from the street, the flow of a fire hydrant, snow, the blood of the dead. They walk, single-mindedly without seeming to hear or understand pleas to stop. They stare vacantly, fixedly interested only in satisfying that never ending thirst.  Whatever they can get their hands on will do and if they see someone fall, even one of their own group, they fall upon them, devouring them. The four see some truly gruesome stuff and they figure out pretty quick that they need to hide. Find somewhere and hole up and wait for rescue, or until whatever is infecting the city is cured. Somewhere high that gives them 360 views of the city and what is happening. Forewarned is after all, forearmed!

Led by the confident Dave, with his knowledge of New York City they end up in the GE Building, located at 30 Rockefeller Plaza and referred to in the book by it’s nickname ’30 Rock’. 70 stories high with an observatory that goes from floors 67-70, they discover it is perfect for their needs. They pick the top floor- the Rainbow Room – as their base and set about making themselves comfortable. There is plenty of food and drink and they raid the lower floors for other things they need – bedding, clothes, iPods etc for entertainment. They can get no TV, no radio, no internet but they have a generator they took from an abandoned FDNY truck that will provide them with 9hrs of power per full tank. They cook themselves meals, they watch DVD’s, they watch the city. They survive.

Dave, who lives in Brooklyn, wants to try and get there to check on his family but Jesse insists on going instead. His argument is that Dave must say with the girls as he is better equipped to protect them and Jesse is used to being on his own. He takes an abandoned police car and tries to make it but the Queens Midtown Tunnel is blocked by horrific things that he cannot bear to think about. He turns back for 30 Rock and his friends.

They know they have to get out of the city. Although there are noises about leaving the safety of 30 Rock (it seems the infected don’t hunt as such, merely take advantage of opportunities that cross their path) there have been incidents. They encountered an infected at close range and Jesse had a disturbing encounter on floor 59 of the building that his mind has now repressed. They need to find out what is happening to the city and if there are any others like them. Jesse, watching from the Observation Deck one night notes that lights are on in New Jersey – lights that aren’t just emergency lights. They decide it is there they must go, and make preparations to leave 30 Rock.

The novel is fast paced, engaging at the beginning but with several frustrating periods of arguing and inaction. It’s too hard to explain this in great detail without revealing a spoiler that would ruin the book spectacularly for anyone that wanted to read it – something that I, in my blithe ignorance, didn’t see coming at all and it about knocked me out. It rescued the book for me actually, when I was starting to get annoyed by the characters having discussions like “We must stick together. You know what happens in horror movies when they don’t stick together” and then promptly, one of them being all “I must go off on my own!”. The reasons for this, as well as their lack of regard for their families and friends back home (apart from Dave and even his concern is sort of vague) are all made startlingly clear in the final chapter and it was that revelation that made me definitely want to read the second book.

It’s not without its flaws but it’s got entertainment value in spades for the YA market. I would have no hesitation recommending it for the 11-16yo market, boys or girls. It’s descriptive enough of the grotesque to interest the boys but not overly so. It doesn’t go too far and the idea of a “thirst” for every sort of liquid was a nice take on what could’ve just been a trite vampire ‘evil’. The touches of humanity shown to the ‘chasers’ on several occasions were intriguing too, making you wonder if the infection could be cured, or varied in degree of seriousness. You close out the book absolutely no closer to knowing what has happened, what caused it, or if applicable, who caused it than you were on the first page and I’m interested enough to also keep reading so that I can find out.


(Book #61 of my 75 Book Challenge)

One response to “Chasers – James Phelan

  1. […] the final book in the Alone trilogy. I read Chasers  in 2010 and then Survivor late last year. Although I felt that there were some flaws in each, […]

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