by Deb Hanrahan
Philyra Publishing, 2012
Vestige begins the day the world ends. Deb Hanrahan boldly adds this story to the surfeit of post-apocalyptic Christian Day of Judgment fiction narratives – successfully. It is risky working in a genre with familiar symbols, characters, and themes. A storyteller must work delicately, gently trusting her audience’s existing knowledge of references, to craft something unique. The dangers of a supernatural or fantasy tale include being prey to hackneyed clichés.
Vestige is not chum for the religious horror flick genre. Vestige is clever, briskly paced, credible, and sympathetic. There are a handful of paragraphs (mostly in the first chapter) which sound a bit nervous. They seem almost self-aware and a wee bit jumpy about being looked at my readers. This adolescent awkwardness soon dissolves as the narrative picks up and the characters form. Hanrahan uses details gracefully, trusting the images described (such as a character defacing a cherished object) will evoke emotion better than narrative exposition.
Vestige’s premise is straight-forward. One evening, everyone goes to bed as usual; in the morning, one-third of the population has simply vanished. Doctors, nurses, children and dogs are disproportionally absent. Panicked, the government, led by an unfamiliar Director of Homeland Security, invokes martial law. One individual alone has the ability to defeat evil and give humanity a last chance at redemption. Yet this savior, Micah, does not understand his role or responsibilities.
Part of the joy of reading Vestige is the aplomb with which Hanrahan uses a reader’s expectations of a predictable storyline in unpredictable ways. There is, for example, the expected Catholic priest. However, he may or may not be one of the good guys or even one of the faithful. In fact, the definition of the “faithful” is unclear. Characters we assume would be good are not; those we expect to be bad are undecided.
Good fiction of any genre assists its readers in asking uncomfortable questions, such as “what is ‘good?'” or “what is ‘faith,’ really?” In fiction, we can safely press against workaday truths – if the author leaves room for examination and doesn’t pound us over the head with One Interpretation. Vestige leaves lots of space for questions. Carefully placed in an accessible young adult thriller, existential questions about the nature of faith or judgment or choice are hidden, if one wants to ask. Or, one can kick back and enjoy a fun story. Either way, Vestige satisfies.
Vestige is part one of a series. Part two, Scion, will be released in September 2013 by Philyra Publishing. Hanrahan’s first novel is Changing My Wardrobe. All are available through amazon and other online retailers.
This review first appeared on irevuo.com, Friday Reads.