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Rivers by Michael Farris Smith
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Rivers (2013)

by Michael Farris Smith

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2012091,824 (3.77)16
It had been raining for weeks. Maybe months. He had forgotten the last day that it hadn't rained, when the storms gave way to the pale blue of the Gulf sky, when the birds flew and the clouds were white and sunshine glistened across the drenched land. Following years of catastrophic hurricanes, the Gulf Coast stretching from the Florida panhandle to the western Louisiana border has been brought to its knees. The region is so punished and depleted that the government has drawn a new boundary ninety miles north of the coastline. Life below the Line offers no services, no electricity, and no resources, and those who stay behind live by their own rules. Cohen is one who stayed. Unable to overcome the crushing loss of his wife and unborn child who were killed during an evacuation, he returned home to Mississippi to bury them on family land. Until now he hasn't had the strength to leave them behind, even to save himself. But after his home is ransacked and all of his carefully accumulated supplies stolen, Cohen is finally forced from his shelter. On the road north, he encounters a colony of survivors led by a fanatical, snake-handling preacher named Aggie who has dangerous visions of repopulating the barren region. Realizing what's in store for the women Aggie is holding against their will, Cohen is faced with a decision: continue to the Line alone, or try to shepherd the madman's captives across the unforgiving land with the biggest hurricane yet bearing down and Cohen harboring a secret that may pose the greatest threat of all. Eerily prophetic in its depiction of a southern landscape ravaged by extreme weather, "Rivers" is a masterful tale of survival and redemption in a world where the next devastating storm is never far behind.… (more)
  1. 20
    The Road by Cormac McCarthy (GCPLreader)
  2. 00
    Odds against Tomorrow by Nathaniel Rich (sturlington)
    sturlington: Visions of climate change
  3. 00
    No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy (sturlington)
    sturlington: Michael Farris Smith's writing reminded me strongly of Cormac McCarthy. Both The Road and No Country for Old Men are similar in tone, style and theme to Rivers.
  4. 00
    Good Morning, Midnight: A Novel by Lily Brooks-Dalton (sturlington)
    sturlington: Survival stories following environmental calamities
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» See also 16 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
Rivers by Michael Farris Smith is a science fiction story about the changing climate. When a series of ever more intense storms causes widespread devastation along the gulf Coast, the U.S. Government concedes ninety miles to nature and sets a line. Above the line there is safety and the laws of the United States of America. Below the line there is a lawless land lashed by storms, where supplies are short, life is cheap and the strong rule the weak.

The main character, Cohen, has stayed below the line as he mourns the loss of his wife and unborn child, but one day on his way home from getting supplies he is attacked and left for dead. When he finally reaches his home, it has been ransacked. He sets out to reclaim all that is his and instead discovers a commune of women who are being held against their will. By rescuing them perhaps he can reconnect with his own humanity once again.

The author has written a book that tackles some issues that the world is currently facing. In Rivers he writes about the effects of global warming while still delivering a tense, well written story. Part meditative and part thriller, this is a story that is timely and engaging although I would warn that the story can become quite brutal and violent. ( )
  DeltaQueen50 | Nov 5, 2019 |
meh ( )
  AnnaHernandez | Oct 17, 2019 |
Rivers is modestly literate and frequently gripping. This book has some surprises. Comparisons to Cormac McCarthy's The Road sometimes suggest that the books are similar in style, but really the most obvious similarity is the premise of the stories. This isn't to say that Smith's style isn't similar to McCarthy's, but it wasn't the first thing that dawned on me.

There are some issues I have with the story and the likelihood of some of the events. For the most part, everything is rather plausible, but there are some instances in which I found myself asking, "how would Cohen (the story's protagonist) not have known this?" Big pieces of the book's plot are built around certain knowledge that characters do or do not have regarding their environment. And when I find myself wondering how likely it is for a character to know or not know certain facts about his environment, I feel like the events that arrive as outcomes of that missing knowledge are brought to me by way of a kind of literary cheating.

All this considered, though, Rivers is thoroughly engrossing and enjoyable. Smith's style is humble and concise, allowing for the story's events and the characters' emotions have our attention, rather than the beauty of the prose.

I'd recommend this one, and I'll definitely read whatever he publishes next. ( )
1 vote jantz | Jan 1, 2017 |
Insurance companies refer to storm damage as an act of God, yet I doubt that anyone would see any touch of the divine in the climatic cataclysm that has befallen the Gulf Coast in Michael Farris Smith’s debut novel. In a world where Hurricane Katrina was just the beginning, It has been 613 days since the declaration of the Line, a geographical boundary line drawn ninety miles north of the coastline from the Texas-Louisiana border across the Mississippi coast to Alabama. A geographical boundary that said, we give up. The storms can have it. No more rebuilding and no more reconstruction. The declaration came after several years of catastrophic hurricanes and a climate shift suggested that there was an infinite trail of storms to come…”Beyond the Pale the only law is might makes right. The only residents are scavengers, raiders, treasure hunters and those clinging to a live that has long since blown away.

Among the latter is Cohen, a husband grieving the death of his wife and unborn child, who is unwilling to abandon their grave in the sodden soil behind his house. When he is attacked and robbed by raiders he sets out to track down and recover his property. Thus begins a story of an arduous journey that many have compared to Cormac McCarthy’s The Road in an environment as harsh and forbidding as any found in Mad Max, only much, much, much wetter.

For a debut novelist, Farris Smith has the chops of a seasoned professional. I expected, and on several occasions thought I found, minor bloopers or loose ends in the story but this talented author consistently made a mockery of my expectations and all the way to the last page took the story in an entirely different direction from what I thought he would.

I highly recommend this book and am excitedly looking forward to his next two releases; Desperation Road, coming out next year, and The Fighter, coming in 2018.

FYI: On a 5-point scale I assign stars based on my assessment of what the book needs in the way of improvements:
*5 Stars – Nothing at all. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
*4 Stars – It could stand for a few tweaks here and there but it’s pretty good as it is.
*3 Stars – A solid C grade. Some serious rewriting would be needed in order for this book to be considered great or memorable.
*2 Stars – This book needs a lot of work. A good start would be to change the plot, the character development, the writing style and the ending.
*1 Star - The only thing that would improve this book is a good bonfire.
( )
1 vote Unkletom | May 12, 2016 |
I had a hard time buying the premise that government would draw a line and give up on the gulf coast, regardless of who or what was down there. While the author is a great descriptive writer and he had a well paced story, I was not impressed with his writing style. He uses so many incomplete sentences that it became a distraction, and I found his descriptions of the character's previous lives melodramatic. The dog was the only character I really cared about. ( )
1 vote Kkamm | May 7, 2016 |
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When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved. -- Acts 27:20
Solitude produces originality, bold and astonishing beauty, poetry. But solitude also produces perverseness, the disproportionate, the absurd and the forbidden. -- Thomas Mann, Death in Venice
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In memory of my grandfather, the Keeper of the Place
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It had been raining for weeks.
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