Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Apparent Power by Dacia M Arnold

Apparent Power is a contemporary post-apocalyptic sci-fi novel written by Dacia M Arnold. It’s her first, and the main thing I came away with was an impression of her potential.

This is not a perfect novel. There are definitely some rough patches, but it's entertaining, and if you're looking for something a little different in a post-apocalyptic sci-fi novel, this is one you're probably going to enjoy. It's got a unique flavor that I think most would be hard pressed to find anywhere else. It was definitely a fun read that kept me guessing.


Valerie Russel’s morning began fairly normally; she was going to take a shower and go to work. It was all good, until she experiences what seems to be a massive static shock. When she gets out of the shower, she looks twenty years younger and is in the best shape of her life. Weirder, her husband finds this more attractive than weird, and then goes to work.

Valerie debates going to work herself, but ends up deciding she will. She’s going to be filling in for another nurse at a different ER than she normally does, so nobody should notice the difference. She leaves her son, Caleb with his nanny and starts driving to work.

Things seem strange, but okay, until there’s another incident and her car goes out of control. She crashes. And then, planes start falling out of the sky.

Valerie has no idea if her family is all right. She tries to make her way back to them using the survivalist training from her childhood and avoiding shady government outfits who seem intent on rounding up any suspicious people.

This Isn’t Your Average Apocalypse

I found it really cool that Arnold is focusing her apocalypse around what would happen if humans could no longer count on technology or electricity. Everything from cars, to planes to phones and medical equipment go haywire once things start to go down. It’s a not a scenario I’ve seen much and it’s refreshing to see one that doesn’t involve zombies or diseases these days.

Plus, the initial stages, where Valerie discovers she’s suddenly young and incredibly fit are a great hook. You’re definitely left wondering about what’s happening. The whole situation keeps you guessing as the story unfolds.

Slowly, we learn about Valerie’s family’s past and where her survivalist training originates from while around her, the world is falling apart and the CDC is everywhere, rounding up the survivors.

Meet Valerie

Valerie is a married mother of one and a nurse. Her desire to take care of people around her is incredibly evident, even as the world falls apart around her. This can actually present a point of conflict for her as she balances her need to take care of herself and her family with her desire to help those strangers suffering around her.

As I mentioned earlier, she also has some survivalist skills. Her father, Mike, trained her and her brother, Kevin from a young age to take care of themselves in an emergency, so she’s not exactly a damsel in distress at the end of the world, which is pretty refreshing.

It's really her need to get back to and take care of her son that drives her initially, which is heartwarming and real to me.

The Rough Patches

Okay, so, interesting, unique aspects aside, this novel has some problems that might bother some readers.

The most prevalent problem I had was with the dialogue.  In a lot of cases, it seems a bit stiff or scripted.  It has its good moments, but a lot of the time I found myself noticing things like odd phrasing or people giving short speeches, rather than simply speaking.  Another thing that came up was a lack of contractions.  Real people say "can't" or even skip words altogether.  Spoken sentences are rarely longer than seven words and tend to skip information like the subject if it's assumed the one being spoken to will understand.

Another issue I had was that the pacing felt a little rushed and it kind of felt like the author was pushing the narrative along to get to the climax.  Sometimes character's decisions or reactions didn't always make sense to me.  Like, nobody seeming worried about people suddenly appearing younger for no reason they immediately understood...

Anyway, these problems are not huge and shouldn't detract too much for overall enjoyment if you like reading in this genre.  The plot and characters should more than make up for them, and I'm guessing they're all going to disappear later in the series, since they're mainly symptoms of a first novel and easily overcome with more experience.


Overall, I found this an exciting, enjoyable read.  There are a few first novel stumbles, but the story fast-paced and interesting, so they didn't bother me too much.  I definitely recommend it if you're looking for something a little more fresh than the usual end of the world fare we've been seeing over the last ten to twenty years or so.  Definitely give it a shot if you like contemporary post-apocalyptic sci-fi.

You can also check out a novella in the series, Reactance, on Amazon.

Bechdel Test: Pass
Links: Goodreads, Bookbub, Dacia M Arnold @ her site, @ Facebook
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