Review: A Departure by Tom Ward

A Departure by Tom Ward is a post-apocalyptic coming of age story.

In a heartbeat

Michael’s life is good.
He’s in love and about to leave home for university. Things couldn’t be better.

Then a natural disaster hits Britain.

With his family and friends dead, and no help forthcoming from the government, Michael sets off, alone, aiming to reach the potential safety of the continent. Along the way, he forges a new family amongst the ruins of England when he is joined by former teacher, David, parish council head, Judith, and Zanna, a student.

As the group travels south, what remains of society deteriorates around them, revealing the darkest aspects of human desire. Amongst so much darkness, Michael must fight to uphold his own ideals.

A tale of coming of age on a road where rules no longer apply

A good, but flawed book.

It’s a very slow starter, to the extent it nearly joined my few DNF’s. I stuck with it and am glad I did, because it does pick up somewhere around chapter 8.

The language is frequently beautiful, evocative and almost magical in the way it creates a bleak sense of despair. Sadly, it is often let down by clumsy sentence structures and basic errors that a harsher edit would have caught. Hopefully these errors will be corrected in future copies. Now, minor errors like these might not bother you, but I like language to be clear, descriptive and beautiful – and all these things are undermined if you use the wrong word in the wrong place. English is an easy language to get wrong and a few errors are acceptable, but that’s why editors exist. Also, there are almost no contractions used, which makes the prose feel stiff, clumsy and strangely formal. When writing about the collapse of our whole society I think a little informality is allowed, yes? However, these issues become minor when compared to the high quality of the rest of the writing.

Story-wise I am very impressed. A fairly standard group-crosses-the-post-apocalypse-world tale, but I like those a lot and the characters are well-drawn and believable, even if they sometimes stray close to stereotype. Sometime simple is better with a story, and this is one book where that’s true.

It’s surprisingly short – I read it on PDF and it was only 165 pages. This is, perhaps, what leads to the faint anticlimax at the end – not enough time or space put into the ending. Though, the ending does fit and is satisfying, I’d just have liked more ‘oomph.’


3 stars


Provided free by the publisher.

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