That’s the question we wrestle with through Laura Thalassa’s novel. The four horsemen of the apocalypse visit present-day Earth wiping away most of our technology. Planes fall from the sky, cars stop running, computers stop computing, and any remotely high-tech machine or device simply stops working.
After reducing the planet to the 17th Century, the horsemen disappear. Many die but a large number adapt and resume their lives. This is until one of the horsemen returns. Pestilence the Conqueror, crowned and arrayed in golden armor, rides across the land. Where he goes, a plague so deadly that none survive spreads.
Word of his progress causes people to flee, seeking some place so hidden and remote that the plague won’t find them. A very small number decide to resist.
Chosen by lot, Sara Burns, a twenty-eight-year-old firefighter, must stop the plague by killing the horseman. Her ambush is successful for a moment. Pestilence’s bloody body lies on the road along with that of his steed. Within hours he has regenerated himself and captured Sara. His plan is to make her an example of the level of suffering he can inflict.
From this point, Thalassa treats us to a steady battle between the hip, flip young woman, and the self-important Pestilence. He is committed to completing a task assigned to him by God, while she points out the cruelty and unfairness of the job, wiping out humanity.
Thalassa masterfully maintains the ordinary quibbles and compromises between two people traveling together without letting the reader forget survival of humanity is at stake.
Both characters are full-fledged and interesting. I wasn’t sure what ending I was hoping for.