Z for Zachariah by Robert C. O'Brien
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This was written in the early seventies for the dystopian youth market.
Wait... was there a dystopian SF youth market back then? Um... I guess so! I have this weird feeling like I just entered the twilight zone... but it must be true!
I'm used to 70's SF and Fantasy being very adult oriented and over the top. I think of Lucifer's Hammer or the other later classics of post-apocalyptic nightmares that came out later like The Stand and Swan Song and so many others, but here's the gorgeous bit:
This one scales down everything into a tight little pocket of a farm that escaped the devastation of the nukes leaving one teenage girl alone after the rest of the family goes off and succumbs to one of any number of perils. It's all about survival and she does a pretty capable job of it, but then someone arrives. A man.
The rest of the novel is all about them. The last letters in the alphabet. The last man and the last woman. It's scary when you see things for what they really are. The man takes, the woman either succumbs, herself, or she fights for her freedom.
Remember, this is a young kid, at one point just turning sixteen. There's plenty of thriller moments and plenty of getting along, too, but what it really boils down to is a microcosm of gender studies that's both magnified to extremes and extremely scary.
I felt it.
Sure, this is YA and it's rather mild by today's seedier YA standards, but what it doesn't have in glam it has in solid story and a depth of foundation that most can't even touch.
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