So many post-apocalyptic stories are dismal and cynical, focusing on evil people capitalizing on a new chaotic paradigm to do terrible things to other people. Whenever I’ve read books like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, Steven King’s The Stand, or even when watching The Walking Dead, I’ve often thought that, in a real post-apocalyptic scenario, people would probably work together to rebuild society, rather than tear each other down.
So while reading Kimi Eisele’s debut novel The Lightest Object in the Universe, a story of a devastated America, crippled by waves of disease, a collapsed electrical grid, and a decimated economy, I was holding my breath as each chapter passed, hoping no Mad Max-style cannibals or roadside bandits would be introduced.
For the most part, my wish was granted.
Set soon after the end of the world as we know it, Beatrix, once an advocate for fair trade, is trying to rebuild her community in Southern California, while Carson, a one-time school principal, travels on foot from New York City to reconnect with her.
There are some semi-villainous characters, primarily a radio-preacher promising a utopia different from what he actually delivers and group of bike-riding teens terrorizing their neighbors. But the black and white, good versus evil cliches from most dystopian tales, thankfully, never appear.
Instead, The Lightest Object in the Universe presents a new take on the end of the world, an optimistic one in which the best traits of humanity: trust, ingenuity, community, generosity, and love might serve as the foundation of a new world. It’s a feel-good apocalypse!