The Forest of Hands and Teeth
By Carrie Ryan
Published July 2009
Published by Gollancz
Published by Gollancz
In Mary's world there are simple truths. The Sisterhood always knows best. The Guardians will protect and serve. The Unconsecrated will never relent. And you must always mind the fence that surrounds the village; the fence that protects the village from the Forest of Hands and Teeth. But, slowly, Mary’s truths are failing her. She’s learning things she never wanted to know about the Sisterhood and its secrets, and the Guardians and their power, and about the Unconsecrated and their relentlessness. When the fence is breached and her world is thrown into chaos, she must choose between her village and her future—between the one she loves and the one who loves her. And she must face the truth about the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Could there be life outside a world surrounded in so much death?
Alright, so I'm breaking from my 'must review whole series at once' rule for this book, but only because I have a pile of things I wanna write about and the second book in the series hasn't shown up in the mail yet and the third book is just sitting on my desk taunting me, daring me to read it out of order. Well, I'm going to write this review because I've convinced myself that if I write this review that the second book will show up faster. Postal service superstitions aside, there's one thing that you should know before I start this review:
I hate zombies.
There. Now you know my seemingly unpopular opinion and the biased angle from which I am approaching this book about zombies.
Now, you might be asking yourselves, "Reg, if you don't like zombies so much then why did you pick up a book knowing it was going to be about zombies or something similarly gruesome?" The answer, my friends (you're my friends now, you're just gonna have to deal with that, we'll build pillow forts and have burritos it'll be great,) is that someone recommended it to me. Not only did someone recommend it to me, but they spent several weeks redesigning their own cover for it and I gotta say that if you're dedicated enough to be making art for a work then it's gotta be worth something to you on a personal level and I will not snub your attempts to share that bit of yourself with me simply because zombies aren't my thing.
The Forest of Hands and Teeth isn't awful. It's interesting. It's got a decent premise. I like the novelty of the zombie apocalypse being 'over' and now humanity has to deal with the aftermath of being unable to rid itself of zombies completely and just trying to protect itself as much from further contamination as possible. I really do feel like there were too many things unanswered. Much of the early part of the book deals with the religious cult at the heart of the MC's society. The MC goes on a quest for answers and then gets a grand total of ehhhhh...a few before everything falls apart even more. Judging by the Next Book Preview and the back of the third book, I don't think I'm ever gonna get answers about this cult. I'm really disappointed about that.
But I digress. The book. So, often I praise characters who are driven, but there's a difference between 'driven' and 'fixated.' Mary is fixated on One Thing to the exclusion of all else or really noticing anything else around her from time to time. All that exists to Mary is that One Thing and then she takes on the role of Oblivious Protagonist and- Look, I don't like Mary. I spent a lot of time yelling at her. I spent a good deal of time yelling at the other characters who were so equally fixated on her too. I didn't see her as that great. The dog was my favourite character. There will not be a book that has chapters dealing with the dog's adventures after this book. You have no idea how sad this makes me.
The world building was decent. The writing was pretty good. If those things weren't present and I still was firmly 'meh' on these characters, I wouldn't be quite so determined to find the rest of the books. The zombies are a plot point, but they're not The Plot Point. There's a lot more going on in The Forest of Hands and Teeth beyond ahhhhh zombies. It's definitely worth a look regardless of your stance on zombies or the secret power of post-apocalyptic nuns. Tell me your secrets post-apocalyptic nuns. I need to know.