Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Book Review: Friends of the Family by Joel Baker


The collapse of society forces the Colter family to kill or be killed. To escape, they decide to return to Jesse's childhood home of Haven. On the perilous journey they encounter a deserted genetics lab. That evening the results of a genetic experiment, five massive dogs working as a team, walk into their camp. The dogs finally disappear back into the dark. On a second visit, the dogs become friends of the family. 

As they near Haven, a sheriffs warning about a brutal gang, triggers a buried childhood memory for Jesse and the gangs involvement in the death of his parents. The gang decides to visit Haven... 

My Review:
I suggest that people interested in this book do NOT read the second half of the blurb above as it tells you all the main events in the plot, which is disappointing. I read the whole blurb after I finished the book so the plot was not spoiled for me.

Jesse and his family have survived the apocalypse, a disaster that turned life back before the industrial age, and a fatal cholera outbreak. Now they are trying to survive, protect their town at all costs and do whatever needs to be done to stop stangers taking what is there. When the raiders start to target the town, even Jesse can't stop them and he plans to relocate the family to his old home called Haven. On the dangerous journey, they have a strange encounter with genetically modified dogs which could prove to be a blessing for them.

This was a hard book to review. I'm not really sure how to rate it because I had a fixed idea in my head as to what the book would be like and when I read it, it was nothing like I expected it to be. I was expecting a tale of extreme violence and horror for some reason, and it wasn't like that at all, so I think it will suit a lot of different types of readers. It is set in a grim dystopian world where people were unprepared for a loss of power and the gadgets that made life so easy and enjoyable. Now people try to steal from others to survive and you must be prepared to kill to defend what you have. It is a dark story with bits of violence but not what I'd describe as extreme. It reminds me of the plot of a western where the good guys are taking on the bad guys spreading terror in town, especially the big showdown-except it is set in a dystopian world.

I liked the characters. Jesse is an ordinary man who has done things he is not proud of to protect his family. He is slowly teaching his sons Mark and Paul how to survive and defend the family. His wife Sarah is pregnant, which adds an element of danger to their travel plans. Also there is daughter Lily, and Mark's friend Cole. Cole is a damaged boy who is not fully stable and lives alone, but Jesse views him as part of the family and capable with a gun. I found Cole very interesting as he has suffered greatly in his life but is healing gradually because Jesse believes in him, treating him as a son. There are also the characters of Franklin and Hattie, who raised Jesse after his parents died, and are looking after Haven. I love Franklin...he is like the grampa you've always wanted, kind and full of wisdom. He was my favourite character.

The best thing about this book are the dogs, which feature heavily in the plot. The dogs find the family and decide to adopt the humans, coming along on the journey to Haven. Boss, the leader of the dogs, is just so very cool! I loved the relationship between Lily and the pregnant dog she calls Daisy. It was very sweet!

The book is definitely about the dynamics of two families-the human family, the dog family, and the relationships within and between them. Cole is trying to shed his loner image to fit in. Paul wants more responsibility so he can prove to his father that he is not a child anymore. Sarah fears for her unborn child in this dangerous new world. Jesse battles with the ghosts of his past as he faces the bullies who ruined his childhood. It made the book interesting and brought the characters to life, and you cared about the good guys. It also explores the disturbing aspects within the bad guys family, which I found interesting.

The one thing that slightly disappointed me is that we don't get to follow all of these great characters through the rest of the series. Instead, each book seems to follow a particular generation of the Colter family, with new characters each time. It's not really what I was wanting as I had expected to see the family and the dogs throughout the series. Had I read the blurb for book one, I would've known this but as I explained, I have a fear of blurb spoilers!

Will I read the next book? Probably not, as I think the rest of the series would be a rerun of this book with different cast and none of my favourites. It was still a decent dystopian read though. 
star rating photo: Three Star Rating 3stars.png

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