Survival Instincts by May Dawney was a big read. It’s the kind of book that you ingest in large starving gulps, unable to put it down until you push through each and every massive scene. May Dawney does an excellent job of creating the backdrop of this futuristic world, a place that has gone terribly wrong after the last great war. Set a few hundred years into the future, cities have become jungles of a different kind. With infrastructure reduced to skeletal remains, flora and fauna have taken New York City and pushed humanity into a brutal era of nomads and hunter/gatherers. Society, religion, medicine, and tools have devolved into a level of primitiveness not seen in thousands of years. In this broken world there are two kinds of people, Wilders or Settlers. Lynn Tanner is a Wilder and has survived on her own since childhood by living half-starved and sleeping with one eye open. The only things she cares about are herself, and a stray she found next to a dead man. The man she buried out of respect, the stray she kept.
Dani Wilson is a hunter and trapper for a thriving settlement. A close knit group, they share responsibility and trust with the hopes that they can do more than simply survive in such a harsh world. When Lynn stumbles upon Dani’s hunting party, the dog Lynn has taken as her own is recognized. They immediately assume Lynn stole it and killed the previous owner, who happens to be the husband of the settlement leader. The settlers all mourn the loss of one of their own and Dani would do anything to help mitigate their pain, including traveling with someone as untrustworthy as a Wilder. To prove her innocence, and be released from captivity Lynn is forced to take Dani through the wilds of New York City to find the body and bring it home. They need to trust each other to survive together. The question is, will they trust each other to thrive together as well?
Lynn is a hard woman to like, and also endearing with her tenacity and toughness. It’s not that she’s a bad person, but she was never properly socialized when she was younger so she doesn’t know how to empathize nor does she trust anyone but herself. Dani is a lot harder to pin down. She’s loyal to her group, strong, and an extremely capable hunter. She also knows that the shelter of a homestead is the real key to staying alive and she would never endanger her place with the group. She also knows the value of caring for someone, of loving. Lynn and Dani are ideologically opposite each other with their beliefs of what way of life is best for keeping them from harm. And in the beginning, both women use lies and deceit to reach their objective. But as they are forced to rely on each other more and more, the women bond and they grow together. One of the things I truly enjoyed about this book was the character developement, especially with Lynn. You could see the change happening with each new chapter, each new challenge thrown at the women.
The Writing Style
The book is written in 3rd person with a focus on Lynn. Dawney does an excellent job of not just painting a vivid picture of the wild world around them, but of describing the dangers and events in a realistic way that only research on wilderness creatures would yield. It is easy to follow and packed with action.
The story took hold of me early, right from the beginning. There was no point where I wasn’t left wondering what would happen next. Reading Survival Instinct was an organic progression of being pulled from scene to scene, a perfect recipe for not wanting to put a book down. But put it down you will because it’s a long one, another thing that I love. The book is well-written, the characters were relatable each in their own way, and it was a long read. There was also a healthy dose of sexual chemistry as well as something more. I’m quite happy to say that this book will garner my highest rating for the sheer entertainment value of it alone, and for the way it stayed with me beyond the ending of the last chapter.
I don’t know if I can list any cons for this. Well-written, no errors noticed in the text, I found no areas that were hard to get through, the characters were developed throughout the book, it wasn’t predictable, and I enjoyed the ending.
This book ticked a lot of my ‘love’ boxes. It was a large dystopian novel with a fast pace, action, and a steady progression of character connection. I don’t need romance in the novels I read but I like to see character chemistry, and I really like a happy ending. I got so many things I was looking for with May Dawney’s book that I’m going to follow her writing closely going forward.
Excerpt from Survival Instincts by May Dawney
The first sign that New York City would be special was the zebra. It pushed through the shrubbery and onto the sun-flooded interstate no more than thirty feet from Lynn. Its hooves clicked on the cracked asphalt as it weaved its way leisurely through the thick throng of rusted car skeletons.
Lynn stopped. Skeever, at her heels, did too.
At least for now, the zebra didn’t notice them. It plucked at a tuft of grass with nimble lips.
Lynn blinked consciously, wondering if the animal would go away if she did. It didn’t. If this animal was what she thought it was, she was staring at an Old-World relic. The striped horses had been kept in carefully constructed habitats in the hearts of cities. Lynn realized she should probably have felt awed by the experience, but her only thought was dinner. She quietly reached down to her belt and undid the leather strap that held her tomahawk in place.
Skeever growled. His ears had turned back, and he bared his teeth.
Shit. Lynn hurried to reach down and muzzle him, but it was too late.
The zebra’s ears twitched . Its head shot up and swung toward the source of the sound. A shudder ran through its compact body as it spotted her.
Lynn met its eyes.
The zebra shied to the side. A single blade of grass dangled forgotten from between its lips. Keen animal intelligence underlay its gaze, sizing her up.
Don’t you go anywhere, now. She reached for her weapon as quickly as she dared. Thirty feet away, wind from the side. She would have to get closer for a clean throw or risk only injuring it and tracking it until it succumbed to blood loss. She tensed and sped forward.
Instantly, the zebra’s eyes widened, and it threw its head back. It rushed off, bleating in panic.
At the very last moment, Lynn stopped her axe from leaving her hand. “Dammit.” She let her momentum fall away.
Skeever excitedly caught up with her.
Just as she reached down to pet him, a group of the striped animals broke through the vegetation onto the road and streamed around the car wrecks. Their hooves hitting asphalt and their bleating cries caused such a cacophony that she froze from the sheer unfamiliarity of it. Lynn spent her life being quiet, among people who spent their lives being quiet. This was glorious and frightening, and Lynn could only watch the procession pass.
Skeever barked and ran after the unexpected newcomers. But when the last of them disappeared into the shrubbery, he retreated, tail between his hind legs. He pressed his bulk against her.
“Wow.” Lynn took a deep, steadying breath. For a moment, she had forgotten that was dinner, running off. She regrettably tracked the herd’s departure by ear and considered her options. She could try to hunt them down , but the odds of catching up before nightfall were nil. Besides, they were going the wrong way.
“Look behind you only to make sure there is nothing there that might kill you,” her father used to say. Lynn had adopted that creed, and it had kept her alive so far. Today was not the day to go against it.
She glanced one more time at the wall of green into which the zebras had disappeared and shook her head. It’s a damn weird day. “Come on, Skeever. We’ll find something to eat in there.” With only a small pang of regret, Lynn walked away from the herd.
Ahead, past the remnants of cars and a precarious- looking bridge, lay New York City. Lynn had puzzled its name together from the rusty signs overhead. It sounded vaguely familiar. Perhaps she’d heard about it from the odd traveler she’d met on her meandering journey, or perhaps her parents had told her stories before they had died. If someone had told her about the city, she’d forgotten the details. All she’d learned about it during the approach was that it was big. Really big.
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Bits and Bobs
- ISBN number: 9783955339357
- Publisher: Ylva Publishing
May Dawney Online
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While there are quite a few dystopian books out there, each one has its own unique flavor. I wouldn’t call Survival Instincts by May Dawney a sci-fi, but it certainly fits the dystopian category. One book that you may enjoy if you liked this one is Renegade by Amy Dunne.
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