Hole in the Sky

Hole in the Sky, by Pete Hautman

How the World Ends: Viruses again, this time a particularly virulent flu virus, which wipes out 5 billion people in its first year, and has the population of the planet down to about 38 million within a few years after that.

Hautman’s virus was way scarier than the virus in the first Fire-Us book. Possibly because we get to see how the virus works; and, more, because we’re aware that the virus is still out there–those who escaped live in small communities, try to limit contact with outsiders, yet know that the virus could still find them.

The protagonist, Ceej, lives on the rim of the Grand Canyon with his uncle and his sister (one of the flu’s few now-immune Survivors who, like all flu Survivors, has been damaged from it). When the people maintaining the Glen Canyon Dam are entirely wiped out by by the flu, uncle and sister head up there, to attempt to open the sluice gates and keep the dam from failing all at once, because the resulting flood would take out many of the dams and communities downstream along the Colorado River with it. But Ceej’s uncle doesn’t return, and his sister is captured by a band of Survivors who are forcibly infecting non-Survivors with the flu virus for reasons of their own. Of course Ceej has to try to set everything right, with the help of his friend Tim, and a Hopi girl, Bella, who is looking for a way out of the Fourth World (this world) and into the next one.

I can’t decide whether the ending quite worked for me. But the world of this book felt very real, with its apocalypse that is still, really, ongoing; again I’m reminded that the world doesn’t just end all at once, but keeps ending. And the story’s being set close to home–I recognized some of the Grand Canyon landmarks–made that world more convincing for me. The Southwest has precisely the sort of isolated communities that would manage to hang on after the world ends, after all.

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