Loved it! 😍

Giesler creates a gripping work of rural-dystopian, post-apocalypse Amish society.

Synopsis

"[I]mpossible to put down...nothing short of a storytelling masterwork." -- BlueInk Reviews (starred review)

"[A] fresh and ingenious take on the post-apocalyptic novel...that maintains suspense from its first page to its last." -- Foreword Clarion Reviews (5 stars)

What unforgivable sin would you commit to save the world?

In 2161, the first chimera arose. A year later, twelve billion people were dead. The few who survived called it the Reckoning.

Generations later, their descendants hide within the walls of small, rustic villages, cowering from chimeras. They revere tradition. They fear innovation. They mistrust anything that’s different.

Root couldn’t be more different.

Curious and irreverent, she disquiets her village. Blind daughter of the village guardian, she stands apart. Frustrated with a wall-bound life, she grudgingly accepts it—until she hears the voice that no one else can hear.

Root's journey will take her into the wilds to discover the truth: that her world has been twisted by people trying to save it. And her choices will determine whether humankind's last ember flickers out.

A rural-dystopian novel exploring post-apocalyptic Amish country, a society shaped by fear, and private choices that remake the world.

In the year 2161, the rise of the chimera precipitated a catastrophic event (called the Reckoning) that wiped away the human population from the Earth, barring a few people. Generations later, descendants of those survivors are leading a rustic life within walled villages, afraid to go beyond the boundaries due to the fear of the chimeras. Further, they honor traditions and have a deep mistrust for technology.


Young Root, however, is different. Blind daughter of the village guardian, her endless curiosity and impertinence test her fellow villagers’ patience. A tragic event leads her to the wild country beyond the village walls where she learns the truth about her ancestors, and how the world she inhabits has come to this state.


Once in a while, you come across a book that tiptoes into your heart and resides there forever. Andy Giesler’s The Nothing Within is one such book. It’s a rural-dystopian, science-fiction novel that explores a post-apocalyptic Amish society. This may seem like an onslaught of elephantine concepts, but the novel is steeped in simplicity—both in terms of lexicon and settings.

 

Told from the perspectives of Ruth Troyer and Root, the novel seamlessly alternates between the past and present. It encompasses the storyteller as well as the journal narration style, both of which are splendidly executed by Giesler. The first half is slow as it lays the brickwork for the World That Is and the World That Was. I was completely immersed in Giesler’s rustic, spartan, ordered world. The post-apocalyptic world, shaped by Amish principles (the Amish community was able to survive the Reckoning as they could function without modern gadgetry) and fear of innovation, is brought alive by his atmospheric writing that is augmented by a map at the beginning of the book.


Giesler plants enough clues in both the timelines for the reader to form his own theories. This ensured I leafed through the pages speedily despite the slow first half. The pace quickens in the second half, though. Giesler effortlessly weaves together the different threads—and ties up all the loose ends in the process—resulting in an inevitable yet surprising dénouement sans the jaw-dropping, slamming-into-a-lamp-post effect that dystopia/science fiction books do. The epilogue doesn’t present a happy ending, but it isn’t depressing either.


I liked the character development as well. Both Ruth Troyer and Root, naïve and weak at first, battle unprecedented adversities to develop spirits forged in fire and ultimately become the leaders of their communities. Most importantly, the story is exceptional. It’s a refreshingly different take on the post-apocalypse dystopia genre.


This novel would have been a 5-star read for me if not for the slow first-half. Consequently, it takes time to build tension in the plot. A little less flab would have made the book more enticing. With fantastic world-building, solid characters and a unique plot, The Nothing Within is highly recommended for dystopian and science fiction lovers.

Reviewed by

I am a twenty-something avid reader. Be it work or leisure, you will always find my nose buried in books. I like the genres mystery/thriller/suspense, romance, fantasy, contemporary and historical fiction, but what I am looking for IS a good story. You can find me at Debjani's Thoughts (book blog).

Synopsis

"[I]mpossible to put down...nothing short of a storytelling masterwork." -- BlueInk Reviews (starred review)

"[A] fresh and ingenious take on the post-apocalyptic novel...that maintains suspense from its first page to its last." -- Foreword Clarion Reviews (5 stars)

What unforgivable sin would you commit to save the world?

In 2161, the first chimera arose. A year later, twelve billion people were dead. The few who survived called it the Reckoning.

Generations later, their descendants hide within the walls of small, rustic villages, cowering from chimeras. They revere tradition. They fear innovation. They mistrust anything that’s different.

Root couldn’t be more different.

Curious and irreverent, she disquiets her village. Blind daughter of the village guardian, she stands apart. Frustrated with a wall-bound life, she grudgingly accepts it—until she hears the voice that no one else can hear.

Root's journey will take her into the wilds to discover the truth: that her world has been twisted by people trying to save it. And her choices will determine whether humankind's last ember flickers out.

A rural-dystopian novel exploring post-apocalyptic Amish country, a society shaped by fear, and private choices that remake the world.

Morton and Aura Lee at the End of All Things

January 27, 2163

“No,” Lee said, leaning against the stone wall, her arms crossed.

Morton sat on the edge of his desk. “This is our fault. You and me. We bought our own bullshit. All the safeties, all the controls. We were wrong.” He left that hanging. Almost a question.

“True,” she agreed after a pause.

“Your plan could go wrong. Mine could, too. Maybe everybody will die no matter what we choose. Everybody who’s still human, anyway.”

“I hate it down here,” Lee said, looking toward the ceiling.

“Building Haven was your idea.”

“Fuck you.”

Morton rolled his neck. Sighed. “Both our plans might leave every human being on the planet dead. The difference is, my plan’s safer. Forcing a cascade is our best chance.”

“The difference is, a cascade murders the entire motherfucking human race,” she replied, her voice calm. “Dick.”

“Not the entire…”

“Oh yeah, sorry.” Lee stood straight. “It’s only mostly genocide. Anyway, we’re done. I listened like you wanted. We’re doing it my way. If you try your way, I can stop it. Shit, cabron. You so much as dream of a cascade, I’ll stop it.”

Morton rubbed his eyes. “I know. That’s why you’re here.”

“I was here.” She walked to the door. When it didn’t open, she palmed the override plate. She palmed it again, then tugged the manual latch.

“You could stop it,” he said softly.

Lee faced him, frowning. “Why the hell did my feeds just go dead?”

“You could stop a cascade. That’s why we’re meeting down here. This room’s secure now. No signals in or out.” Morton nodded toward the ceiling. “We’ve spun up the shield around Haven. Livv used the chaos of the Collapse as cover. She hacked nearly every nanofactory in the Western Hemisphere and brought them here. Trillions. There wasn’t enough government left to understand what was happening or stop it.”

“Morton,” she said.

“After the cascade, we’ll send out the ‘factors to carve a canyon circling north-central Ohio. The cascade…” He paused. “The cascade hits in about four minutes.”

He waited for her reaction. Any reaction. But she stood there, quiet, facing him. Impassive, her head a little to the side.

“I’m sorry,” he said.

He had the flickering impression of her in midair and then he was on his back, on the floor. It’s like that when someone has a military-grade naughtwork. Their naughts make them too fast. You can hardly see them coming.

Lee straddled Morton’s chest, all four foot eleven of her, her face puckered in an unfamiliar grimace of rage. With her right hand, she cradled the back of his head almost tenderly, lifting it gently from the floor. Then, in the instant of peace that lay between, he realized: there wasn’t much mass behind her. She was anchoring herself with her own right arm. She was going to make this count.

Then she was pounding him with her left.

It was like getting hit with a bowling ball. The first blow fractured his jaw. A crash of agony smothered all thought until his naughtwork dialed down his pain receptors. He couldn’t tell whether the next crunch was her hand or his skull.

But he didn’t mind. If he survived, his naughts would heal him.

And if she killed him, he wouldn’t have to face what he’d just done.

About the author

Andy Giesler has been a library page, dairy science programmer, teacher, technical writer, healthcare software developer, and official Corporate Philosopher. He grew up in a town in Ohio Amish country. He’s a husband, father, and nonprofit web consultant living in Madison, Wisconsin. view profile

Published on June 14, 2019

120000 words

Worked with a Reedsy professional 🏆

Genre: Post-apocalyptic

Reviewed by

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