Reading Is Good For You

Book Reviews, Literary News, and Thoughts on Life

Epitaph Road by David Patneaude

A modern utopia where 97% of the men are dead.

Kellen Dent feels all alone. In 2097, he practically is.

Thirty years earlier, an airborne virus nearly caused man’s extinction. Now women rule the world, and poverty, crime, war, and hunger have all disappeared. With tight restrictions on men’s behavior, fourteen-year old Kellen feels like he has no say in his future.

When a rumored outbreak of the virus threaten’s Kellen’s outcast father, he knows that he must warn him of the coming danger no matter what the consequences. During his desperate race to find his dad, Kellen uncovers a secret so frightening that his life and the future of the world will never be the same.

It’s no wonder that David Patneaude decided to cash in on the success of popular dystopian fiction like The Hunger Games and The Knife of Never Letting Go by bringing in his own version in Epitaph Road. The concept of what the world might be like if the majority of the male poplulation was wiped out by a virus was intriguing to me, so much so that I was willing to take a chance on an author whom I had never heard of and pre-order the book on Amazon.

At the risk of giving too much away, I will say that the author tackles some thought provoking issues, such as what sorts of measures ought to be taken when society goes to pot and who has the right to do so, and just because an action makes a situation ‘better,’ does that still make it the right thing to do?

These weighty issues would have made for some compelling reading had Patneaude followed through properly with the execution. As it were, his writing simply lacked sophistication and polish. Most of the time he seemed to ignore that all important ‘showing versus telling’ rule and took the easy way out in revealing vital information to the readers by having Kellen just happen to overhear the plotting of possible baddies, just happen to stumble upon unlocked computers just waiting to be pillaged for clues, or just happen to coax said baddies minions to divulge their secrets. It doesn’t seem very likely that a fourteen year old boy would be able to accomplish all this with such ease (not to mention managing to bike from Seattle to the Port Angeles area with the deterent of curfew and roadblocks).

Patneaude still might have managed to save the story had he created vivid, well-drawn characters, but as it stands, the lot of them were little more than cardboard cut-outs. Gosh, they had such potential! I wished I could have known more about Kellen’s mother’s role in this Population Apportionment Council — what was her motivation for wanting to work for them and what exactly she does she do for them? I wanted more to have been said as to whyKellen’s dad, Charlie, decided to hack it out in the wilderness on his own instead of sticking around help raise his son. Why would someone who was so devistated by the loss of his own father at an early age not cherish his own son and make the effort to take a more active role in his life?

I also felt like Tia and Sunday, Kellen’s gal pals from Nebraska, were thrown into the mix only to demonstrate a particular plot point and because of the misguided assumption that the protagonist from every YA novel needs a love interest. Both of them were so bland and generic that I could care less whether they lived or died. With a little tweaking, I think Patneaude could have made their devotion to Kellen believable, but I found it highly implausable that anyone would be willing to risk life and limb for someone they had known only a day or two (or is that just my mean, self-centered side talking?). 

It kills me that a book with such potential to be amazing didn’t deliver — I certainly don’t like to waste my time or money, and I don’t like feeling disappointed by reading material. My only hope is that Patneaude will make more of an effort to flesh out his ideas and characters in the next book in the series, but I’m not for certain if I will make the effort to read it or not. Time will tell.

Read for the 2010 100+ Reading Challenge


4 comments on “Epitaph Road by David Patneaude

  1. Bibliophilia In Black
    April 5, 2010

    Too bad. It did sound like it could have been a good book.

    • Jenn
      April 6, 2010

      I know – such promise wasted!

  2. Charlotte
    April 6, 2010

    Oh dear….I might well still give this a try, though.

    Have you ever red The Gate To Women’s Country, by Sherri Tepper? It’s another female-run alernative future book, that is very good indeed.

    • Jenn
      April 6, 2010

      Yeah, definitely still give it a try. My opinions certainly aren’t universal – what I don’t like others may think is great. I’m anxious to see what you think of it.

      I’m going to have to give that Sherri Tepper book a try, as I wondered what this premise would be like in the hands of another author. Thanks for the rec!

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This entry was posted on April 4, 2010 by in Speculative Fiction (Fantasy, Science Fiction, Horror), Young Adult Fiction and tagged , , .
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