What if, in a stunning change in history, the nuclear bomb had actually been dropped? What if mutually assured destruction had actually taken place? And what if your family had the only protection from it? When the bomb hits, Scott and his family descend down into their fallout shelter. But before they can shut the door, the neighbours who laughed at their construction of a shelter rush in. WIth not enough food nor space, they must survive for two weeks underground. And all the while, they must carry the awful knowledge that even if they make it out to the top, there may not be anything left for them.
I always love the premise of a good "what if?" historical story, from the brutally realistic The Plot Against America by Philip Roth or the far-fetchedness of Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan. The absurdness of Fallout falls somewhere in between (no pun intended) those two works. It is a terrifying scenario, and Todd Strasser tells the story in a unique, alternating the chapters between the present and the past. We see the characters in their broken state, then flash back to when everything was normal, and realise that they have so much to lose. In this way, Strasser makes you care for all the characters--even when their wishes grow darker. The plot passes by in a whirlwind, packed with both humor and suspense. Strasser's language is sparse and simple, yet the sentences are powerful. The best aspect of the book, is that even after it ends, you are still left thinking about that underground shelter, and what you would have done. And you are still left thinking of the big questions--why does war happen? Why can't we learn from our past mistakes? What if our future is like the past described in this novel?
I highly recommend this novel to anyone who doesn't mind the use of simple language to tell a powerful, emotional, and memorable story. I have never read a book quite like this one.