Eve is the valedictorian of her School, but that’s not the cause for victory that you would think. Sixteen years after a plague has ravaged most of the population, Eve is part of a group of orphaned girls who attended a segregated, girls-only school where they learn how men seek to control and victimize women. They are promised that upon graduation, they will spend time in a vocational training program and then be allowed to go to the City of Sand, where the survivors of the plague have built a new civilization. All the while, they’ll work in the service of the King of the New America.
"EVE is a fresh sort of dystopia because it is explicit in telling us where the world started and what it has become."
But that’s not entirely true. When Eve accidentally finds out what’s really expected of the School graduates, she panics. And lucky for her, she finds a way out. Still, once she does, she is all alone and must navigate an abandoned, post-apocalyptic world and follow Route 80 to a place called Califia, where she knows she will be safe.
Fortunately for Eve, she comes across another School runaway, Arden, and soon the two girls find Caleb, who literally rides in on horseback and saves them. They forge an alliance, and when Caleb takes them back to his camp, Eve and Arden learn the truth about the New America and find out why the training and education they received in School isn’t exactly accurate.
EVE, predictably, is the beginning of a trilogy. While it presents an interesting premise and compelling struggle, it’s not the most exciting of books, which makes me wonder: If sequels and trilogies weren’t the trend, could what is planned as a three-book set be a much tighter, more readable narrative in one volume? Perhaps. Though there is a lot of action in this first book, it’s not all that engrossing. Reveals seem forced, and the extra characters are flat.
The setting, though, is fascinating. It’s like a zombie movie without the zombies, and it’s fun to plot out Eve’s journey through Nevada, Arizona and California on her way to find Califia. Being so sheltered, she doesn’t recognize what we can see as the death of capitalism, with deserted banks and superstores and ghostly highways with abandoned cars. What makes EVE interesting, then, is the fact that it’s so obviously built on other works, American culture and history.
I’m willing to stick by this and wait for book two because of these connections. You’ll recognize rather clearly the parallels to the Holocaust and the Underground Railroad. And the cultural and political ideologies EVE wrestles with come at least in part from Margaret Atwood’s THE HANDMAID’S TALE. It also pays homage to classic literature and rock music, from ANNA KARENINA to THE GIVING TREE to The Beatles. In that sense, EVE is a fresh sort of dystopia, because it is explicit in telling us where the world started and what it has become, rather than relying on ghostly, nebulous ideas of dictatorship and power. Anna Carey’s debut isn’t exactly a fast-paced vacation read, but it’s a thought-provoking one.