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Bewildering Stories

Baileigh Higgins, The Black Tide I: Remnants

reviewed by Alison McBain

The Black Tide I: Remnants
Author: Baileigh Higgins
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services LLC
Date: March 11, 2017
Ebook: 299 pages
Price: $2.99

Fantasy and science fiction are some of my favorite genres, and I find it harder these days to find books in F/SF that I can’t put down. Not because books are getting worse; in fact, I am constantly amazed by the sheer volume of great genre books out there. No, the main reason these days that I can’t burn the midnight oil reading a good book is because I have three little ones who will be awake with the sun. So those days of all-night reading sessions has faded into the sheer reality of being a sleep-deprived parent.

But when I do run across a book like that, a book that I just can’t put down — no matter that I can mentally feel the pain of a toddler poking me in the face three hours later and saying, “Wake up, Mommy!” — that is a book I need to share with the good readers of Bewildering Stories.

The Black Tide I: Remnants by Baileigh Higgins qualifies for this category. I love apocalyptic fiction, with its examination of the human reaction to catastrophe. While there are some elements in this book in common with other great fiction in the category, such as Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven, I feel that Ms. Higgins shows a different side of the apocalypse. The book explores what I feel is an underrepresented subset of survivors, which are the young.

Although adults are better equipped to deal with disaster, what happens to the children and teenagers who have to face it, as well as confront the confusing transition of moving from child to adult?

The Black Tide is the name of a plague that sweeps across the world, starting in China. Some countries have a better resistance strategy, such as the United States, which closes its borders and uses its relative isolation to help halt the spread of the disease.

Others see their governments collapse before they are able to institutionalize counter-measures against the sickness. South Africa, though, is at a lucky juxtaposition of factors. Because of an airline strike, fewer contaminated travelers enter the country, and the country is able to quickly close its borders in advance. While the disease penetrates, it does so more slowly.

The story is told from Ava’s perspective, with a couple of brief forays into the mind of her ten-year-old sister, Lexi. Ava has recently graduated from high school, and the story drops the reader into a world where plague has finally reached their small town of Riebeeckstad.

From trying to maintain their normal lifestyle of going to school and working their jobs, Ava, Lexi and their father are suddenly faced with the reality of mob panic against the perceived end of the world. Their father loses his job and goes off to seek another, but he never returns home. Ava is left on her own with a ten-year-old girl when martial law is declared. They end up confined to their home, subsisting on basic rations handed out by the army.

Her life would be bleak if it weren’t for their neighbor, Andy, a boy Ava’s age who takes it upon himself to help them. Eventually, they move into Andy’s house, sharing quarters with his younger brother and their mother. But the outside world isn’t safe. As Ava’s boss tells her before he dies, “Anger and desperation can make killers of us all.”

But Ava doesn’t give up. “Pessimism was a luxury for those that had nobody who depended on them.” Instead, she discovers that Andy is a part of a group running reconnaissance missions to steal from the army, who are in control of the food supply and who therefore hoard the best goods. Although the thieves keep some of their ill-gotten goods for themselves, most they give away to places that have displaced people and orphans, the ones who get the scarce supply of the worst rations.

But with every illicit endeavor comes risk, and the group is composed merely of teenagers trying to do some good and feel alive again in a world turned on its head. When their Robin Hood activities are stopped in a tragic encounter, Ava becomes a fugitive from the last vestige of governmental control in a dying world. She must decide what to do in order to protect the only family she has left, her sister Lexi.

I don’t want to give away any more spoilers. The story takes more dramatic twists and turns after this point and I enjoyed the journey, even if the reader might guess a few of them might be coming.

I loved every moment of Ava’s story. If I had a criticism of the book, it was that I feel the passages showing us the viewpoint of Ava’s little sister, Lexi, strike me as unnecessary to the story. I feel that Lexi’s voice is a bit young for a ten-year-old. At that age, kids tend to know quite a bit. Lexi’s overly young voice pulled me out of the story somewhat.

But, ignoring these brief digressions, I think the book is a great addition to the apocalypse genre. It explores some ideas that may not have been entirely new, but it shows a refreshing perspective. And the tone and voice of the narrative kept me fascinated and turning the page to find out what happened next.

This book is the first in a series, with the second one currently in the works. I can’t wait to see what happens next. I’m hoping Ms. Higgins writes quickly! I hope you enjoy reading The Black Tide I: Remnants as much as I did, and I look forward to the next book in the Tides of Blood series when it’s released.

Copyright © 2017 by Alison McBain

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