Chosen by Brey Willows is a dystopian science fiction novel that is a perfect mix of action and romance. It invites the reader to ponder a “what if” scenario and see where their conscience leads them.
The year is 2050 CE and climate change has progressed faster than any scientists had predicted. The Earth and many of its inhabitants are dying. Human extinction is no longer a matter of if, but a matter of when. Military convoys travel the country rounding up bewildered scientists. Devin Rossi and Karissa Decker find themselves in the same transport vehicle, but neither of them knows why they have been picked up and where they are going.
On their way to a military base, the convoy is attacked by raiders and Devin and Karissa barely escape with their lives. The leader of the raiders reveals to them what’s behind their selection. The government is planning to colonize a newly discovered planet that can sustain human life. They plan on sending the best and brightest minds to a space station where they will prepare for transport to the new planet. These scientists are members of the Chosen.
After being freed by the raiders, Devin and Karissa decide to brave the elements and search out the military base. They face torrential rainstorms, flashfloods, tornados, and life-threatening injuries. As they struggle to survive, their mutual attraction begins to grow into something more meaningful. Devin and Karissa have to make serious choices. Do they depart Earth to populate the new planet or do they stay and use their skills to help the people the government would so easily forsake? More importantly, will they be able to face this uncertain future together or will their values pull them in opposite directions?
Karissa is my favorite out of the two main characters. She has beauty as well as brains, with just enough insecurity to make her feel completely relatable. Karissa perceives herself as socially awkward and sometimes unable to communicate properly with people, yet when her abilities are demeaned, or Devin is threatened, she turns into a confident and protective lioness. She is the conscience of the story. She is conflicted over why she deserves a chance at a new life while other good men, women, and children will be left behind to live the rest of their bleak lives with no hope for the future. Watching her weigh her personal value system against scientific reasoning left me wondering if she would try and stay on Earth or leave the planet to forge a new future. Her feelings for Devin raise the stakes and kept me immersed in the book.
Devin is a natural leader. With her military background she not only has the physical strength to meet the challenges in this post-apocalyptic world, but she is a brilliant scientist in her own right. She is a natural adventurer and with no ties on Earth, she is immediately on board with the government’s plan. She is not one to form emotional attachments with women and prefers to keep her interactions with them purely physical and limited to one night. She is both heroic and self-deprecating. Observing Devin’s softer side emerge as her feelings toward Karissa deepen was a real treat. Karissa’s love strips Devin of her bravado and has Devin questioning whether her place is on a new planet or on Earth. What had been a black and white decision at the beginning of the book, turns into a quandary for Devin.
Willows has written a story where the romance and the action are perfectly balanced. For me, it seems that one is sometimes sacrificed for the other in speculative fiction. I’m a romance junkie through and through so I need a strong romantic storyline to feel completely engaged with the narrative. The relationship between Devin and Karissa develops so naturally. Rather than jump into a love at first sight coupling, Willows immerses them in a plot where they are forced to rely on each other for survival. They are compelled to become vulnerable and open with each other and willing to put the other’s needs before their own. I couldn’t help but root for them to find their way to a happy ending.
Willows also did an amazing job creating the unforgiving world of this book. Her descriptions of humans migrating north as ocean levels rise, turning cities like New Orleans into underwater ghost towns seem all too plausible. She depicts Mother Nature’s revolt against man’s abuses in such vivid detail that the environment itself feels like a main character.
There is a secondary storyline that weaves its way through Devin and Karissa’s adventure and it kept me wondering how the two tales were going to come together in the end. The Earth Action Response Team is a network of scientists, ex-military, and lay people who do not accept the government’s solutions to the earth’s climate crisis. They form raiding parties to steal supplies in order to supplement their necessities while they work to establish communities that can survive and even flourish in the harsh environment. Willows moves seamlessly between the two plotlines until they effortlessly meet at the end of the novel. That’s when I contentedly sighed and thought, “Oh I hope there is going to be another book!”
For me, there were no cons.
If I had a checklist with all the elements that I want to see in a book, Chosen could satisfy each item. The characters are so completely relatable, the action scenes are cinematic, the plot kept me on my toes, the dystopian theme is entirely relevant, and the romance is sweet and sexy. This is definitely one of those books I will reread. I know I will find even more nuances in the romance and notice finer details in the writing that I may have glossed over in my eagerness to finish the book and see if I would get my happily ever after.
Excerpt from Chosen by Brey Willows
“We’re opening the door. We are armed, and we’re not looking for a fight. Stand down, let us get what we need, and you can be on your way!” The voice shouting from outside sounded female and pissed off.
“We’re all unarmed and won’t be a problem,” Devin shouted back.
The truck door opened to reveal a scene of chaos. The second truck lay on its side, tires in tatters. Smoke curled into the wet air amid sheets of heavy rain, backlit by regular flashes of lightning.
Three people were silhouetted against the flickering headlights from the second vehicle. The one at the front motioned with her gun. “Sorry, you’ll have to get a little wet. We’ll make this quick.”
They filed out of the truck, and Devin tried to keep herself between the gunmen and people she’d come to think of as her responsibility. Once everyone was out, two of the gunmen jumped into the truck, ripped down the canvas sheet at the back, and started hauling out boxes of provisions that they piled into a converted military vehicle.
Devin stepped forward and didn’t flinch when the woman in charge leveled her gun at her. “Leave us enough to get where we’re going, would you? There’s no need to starve people who haven’t been given a choice in this whole thing.”
She couldn’t see the woman’s expression in the darkness, but she appeared to consider Devin’s words. She turned and yelled, “Leave two boxes. That will get them there.”
Devin inclined her head in thanks and stepped back. She put her arm around Karissa and didn’t move away when Zeke pressed closer to her too. Rain soaked them through and they watched as their rations disappeared. Devin craned to see the front of their truck, and saw Walker and another soldier on their knees with their hands on the backs of their heads, a gunman behind them with a rifle. Both front tires were blown out and smoke rose from the hood. She turned and looked at the second truck, which was in far worse state than their own. No one moved over there, and a sick feeling rose in her throat as she wondered if they were all dead.
“Shit! Van, look north!” One of the gunmen loading boxes stopped and pointed.
The gunman by Devin turned, and a flash of lightning showed death headed their way. The massive tornado in the distance meant time was up.
“Evac, now!” the one called Van yelled, and all her gunmen turned and headed to their vehicles.
Devin grabbed her arm and once again didn’t back down when the gun was leveled at her. She’d faced worse. “You can’t leave us here with no cover and no wheels!”
The woman jerked her arm free. “Sorry, egghead. No room at the inn.”
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Bits and Bobs
- ISBN number: 9781635551102
- Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
Brey Willows Online
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