Review: In the Heart of Babylon (review not suitable for Zombies)
Title: In the Heart of Babylon
Author: S G D Singh
What's it about?
Hanna is a sheltered, over privileged rich girl...and she's miserable. Try as she might, this party girl does not feel like she fits in anywhere. Little does she know, this summer is going to be more different then she ever could have dreamed! And it all starts just days before the resort her father has helped to build is scheduled to close for the season. It starts with whispered rumors, secret phone calls from loved ones long since disappeared from her life, learning some unsettling news about her father's secret white surprises organization and mass murder. "Lucky" for Hanna, that's just the opening number!
In just one night, her life as a partying teen will be changed forever as she struggles to come to terms with her father's extreme beliefs and the actions that resulted, prove herself to his secret slaves and forge relationships with them all while trying to survive a zombie apocalypse. No one is safe. The people Hanna thought she knew proves her wrong and failure is not an option (unless you're okay with dying). It is up to this misfit set of teens, all held captive by an extreme organization in one way or another, to save each other, themselves and even the world. Will they all get out alive?
Favorite Character: This one is hard, not because I didn't like anyone, but because I don't think I LOVED anyone either. That may sound like a bad thing, but really, I think it was kind of a good thing. Each of the primary characters had their own flaws and strengths. They were pretty balanced showing different sides to the emotional coping, healing and surviving that they had to endure. If I had to chose, I think I'd have to say...Zahi.
In the grand scheme of things, Zahi was a small character but she was strong, caring, and intelligent. She radiated a sense of leadership and knew how to wield it for the best results when she needed to. She didn't judge. She didn't blame or hate. She accepted without wavering on her own beliefs and I respect that.
Least Favorite Character: This, I'm sure, will sound like a cop out but here it goes. Every. Single. One of the willing participants of the white supremacist group. They made my stomach churn but the worst of which was the Doctor. Not only was he cruel, hateful and way to comfortable spewing said hate, he was...well there aren't words. He had no compassion. He was soulless in all of the worst ways.
Favorite Part: My favorite part was the experience. While I love urban fantasy, I reside happily in the vampire, witch, ghost, magic, werewolf whelm and, without guilt, avoid the zombie whelm. I don't understand the appeal and I had yet to find anything that made think otherwise about that conclusion...until now. Yes, the zombies are..well...zombies. There's no way to get around that but I actually liked it! That was fun for me, to truly enjoy a zombie apocalypse (I know...I know...there's no such things as zombies) story!
Least Favorite parts: This one is easy! There are two parts that really made my stomach churn and I hated! The first part was at the dinner. It's during this part that those "lovely" people gathered at the resort share their thoughts uncensored. They spew vial, hate and unearned superiority like it's necessary to breath! It's truly horrible being in the head of Nadifa (the second main character who also happens to be one of the slaves. I left him out of the recap so that you can get to know him when you read it. I don't think I could explain his situation any better the the book does!) as he has to just stand there silently while this is going on around him.
The second part I won't go into as much detail about but it's further on in the book when our group of hope-to-be heroes find their way into the resort daycare only to find that the zombies had been there first. If you know me, you know don't deal well when you pull in kids to something like this so, while it was impact and I understand why it's there...I hated it.
"Keep your soul filled with love, not matter what happens to you down there. Do not let them take your heart from you." I'm at a loss of words. Really, I am. This is one of those quotes I want to frame and put on the wall. It's filled with strength and honor. We all have those people who, for whatever reason seem to want to squash us and fill us with hate. We can not let them take away what makes us the best versions of ourselves.
"Don't" Zahi said, "She's not worth it. Let no one pull you so low that you begin to hate, Hanna." I'm just going to refer to the previous quote's explanation for being on this list...
"They guard us because they are afraid of us. They point their guns at us because deep down, in their cold, greed-infested cowards' hearts they know what they're doing is wrong."
This, I felt like, was a great way to illustrate just how easily fear can be re-purposed into hate and anger. It blinds us to see more, to learn and to explore to leave our ignorance behind in the name of understanding and acceptance.
Wow! This book gave me a lot of feels. It's filled with hate and prejudice behavior that kind of rocked me to my core. I'm not a prejudiced person by nature, so reading so much hate was really uncomfortable for me. It made the look again at how I live, think and talk. And then I started thinking about those little things that we think and say and how they sprinkle our true feelings around in the process, leaving them for all around us to see if they want to and I started to wonder "what am I sprinkling around? What am I spreading to my kids without even realizing what I'm doing?" In the Heart of Babylon proved to be a terrifying portrait of what hate can do to our society if we let it. It shows us how far we'll go in fear even when we know that what we're doing isn't exactly right, moral or ethical.
But I loved it! I loved that it did make me reevaluate my behavior. I loved that it inspired me to open up conversations with my own kids about race and differences in people. I loved that the sociological not so undertones made me forget that this is, at it's surface, a zombie apocalypse tale in time when zombies seem to be everywhere on the fictional planet. (I guess that's my sociological and psychology background coming out) I loved that it drew me even though the entire story centers around two things I dislike.
I don't know that I'll read it a second time, but I do know that it was an amazing read and I will never regret reading it! It's so worth the time!