No Grave For The Orchids by JC Linden

A dystopian thriller set in a world shattered after nuclear war.

January 18, 2018
Raiders, thieves and spirits coexist in this novel by JC Linden

Dystopia is enjoying something of a golden age, with The Hunger Games, Chaos Walking, The Girl With All The Gifts, and many other post-apocalyptic stories gaining enormous popularity over the past few years. No Grave for the Orchids is set in a more familiar world than some of the dystopian heavy-hitters; the action is located in a small port town and a city that, it is hinted throughout the narrative, have crumbled after nuclear war. The story features several protagonists: twins Aiden and Sophia, their younger brother Grayson, and Kasimir, a foetus who narrates snippets of the action from his unique perspective. When Aiden, Sophia and Grayson's mother and father are kidnapped by a group of brutal raiders known as the Seafarers, the twins take a long and dangerous journey to rescue them, while Grayson stays in their home town and sees the consequences of the raiders' actions.

The premise of No Grave for the Orchids - a quest to rescue important loved ones - was strong, and the author (or rather, authors, as JC Linden is a pen name for two collaborating writers) had clearly put a great deal of thought into the different ways that various communities would react and survive after a nuclear war that had destroyed wider society. I would have liked to have seen more of this worldbuilding on the page - we get snapshots of various different communities, but a stronger grounding in Aiden, Sophia and Grayson's hometown and the way it functions would have set the reader up more firmly for the contrast between this community and the others that the children visit on their journey. The plot itself often meandered, and I felt that many scenes could have been tightened up and turned into a bit of a punchier read - the impact of some of the important events was lost in the description and pacing. There were some touches to the culture of this new world that intrigued me, but were never fully resolved (why do people refer to dead children as 'orchids'? Who were the figures with gas masks who lurked in the forest near the children's town? Has the government perhaps not truly fallen, and are the people we encounter in the story being observed by outsiders who are waiting for the radiation to die away so that they can reoccupy the land?) However, the authors' website suggests that a sequel is in the works - perhaps these points will be addressed then.

No Grave for the Orchids doesn't pull any punches when it comes to reflecting the brutality of the world the authors have created. Readers picking up this book should be warned that there is a strong theme of sexual violence against women, and several instances of sexual assault, as well as other examples of violence within and between the different communities. It also focuses uncompromisingly on physical realities of life such as childbirth, menstruation, and illness, which was interesting to see in a novel - these everyday occurrences are often glossed over in fiction.

A quiet and low-key dystopia, No Grave for the Orchids nonetheless inhabits the genre fully, creating a believable world where both food and technology are scarce and the people who inhabit it must fight constantly, in a variety of different ways, to survive.

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