I don’t think I can explain how much I love this series by Alyssa Cole. There’s a compelling combination seriousness amid such danger in this post apocalyptic world, but there’s also an element of humanity – both good and bad. What happens when electricity fails and people are left to figure out the situation on their own with no way of communicating over distances? Chaos. Utter chaos. Signal Boost, the second novel in the Off the Grid series, could be read as a stand alone, but you’d miss so much depth and color given in the first book, Radio Silence. Cute, angsty, educated young men embark on a journey to not only survive but to try to help re-build. Signal Boost showcases both the terror and hope wrought when the world, as it currently exists – deconstructs.
In a secluded cabin, John and his loved ones have survived. He should feel grateful. But his family is in his face 24/7, he has to watch his best friend, Arden, and brother, Gabriel, flaunt their love, and as a techie in a Luddite world he’s pretty much useless. The cabin is brimming with people, but he feels utterly alone.
Until he catches Mr. Tall, Blond and Gorgeous raiding their garden. Mykhail is an astrophysics student, he makes John’s gaydar ping like crazy and he thinks he knows what caused the devastation. He’s on a journey to his university to find answers, and John invites himself along. Partly to get out of the house, and partly because he can’t let Mykhail go without acting on the mutual attraction that’s so obvious even John’s mom is playing matchmaker.
The closer they get to campus, the more Mykhail lets down his walls. But with answers come secrets both devastating and deadly, and before they can save the world, they’ll have to save themselves.
As much as I enjoyed Arden and Gabriel’s story, John and Mykhail are easy favorites. John, for all of his witty sarcasm and bravado, is feeling lost and displaced. His best friend, the aforementioned Arden, found a lover/friend/partner in his older brother, and now John is questioning his place in the home he shares with the happy couple, his parents, his teenage sister, and a neighbor woman and her baby. It’s difficult to make friends and find lovers when you’re holed up in a remote cabin and on the lookout for violent post-apocalyptic crazies. Cue Mykhail. Who would’ve thought that the garden pilferer was an astrophysicist that could shed some light on the recent phenomenon of no electricity? Of course, it’s lust at first sight for John and Mikhail (even though the latter is clearly a little shy in the romance department). They complement one another quite well – the outspoken and dramatic John balances the sweet, bookish-ness of Mikhail. Also, it was endearing to observe Mikhail transition from naïve young man with a crush to authoritative astrophysicist.
In Radio Silence, most of the action is limited to the very end of Arden and John’s journey to the cabin and family dynamics thereafter. Communication with the outside world is non-existent. There are no cell phone signals, radio waves, internet, or cable. Signal Boost takes us on a short trek in search of more information regarding the Flare that effectively shut down the world. We learn about the situation on a national as well as global scale. Thus far, there has been no government intervention or assistance and John’s tight-knit group is in the dark (haha!) figuratively and literally. (I can’t even imagine living like that. Generators only last so long, and all of the fighting over limited resources would be terrifying. I know I was extremely frustrated this winter when the power went out for a few hours and I couldn’t watch television or browse the internet on my laptop.) Folks in neighboring towns have been hardened by devastating experiences with unscrupulous survivors. I processed the severity of the situation, and reflected on how I would react, through John’s experiences. He’d been somewhat protected from the destruction and depravity of the outside world while staying at his family’s cabin. Poor Mykhail did not have it quite so easy.
The Off the Grid series is post-apocalyptic done right. A plausible natural disaster has shoved the world back into pre-electricity times. Unfortunately, the world had become very much dependent upon the technology that no longer works. We see the ugly side of humanity and the hope that can exist in spite of, and perhaps because of, such strife. Full of angst, hope, and a seriously crazy world, Signal Boost is a wild ride through post-apocalyptic isolation and into the unknown. Life is meant to be lived, and good people can get through bad situations (though they might pick up a few scars along the way). I’m sincerely hoping that there will be more books in this series. I want Maggie (John’s sister), Hernandez (we meet him in the latter part of Signal Boost), and Darlene (the former neighbor/new mother living with John’s family) to find their match, too!