Petra is unique in the apocalyptic genre, in that it details the apocalyptic events of a future society set on a distant planet. It follows the journeys of people who get introduced slowly over the course of the book, starting with the Bot. As we listen in on its private calculations about the human race (or Allendian race), we learn that the Bot has no name, but a mission. A mission that involves extermination of those infected with the flu (a deadly fatal flu) in order to ultimately protect humanity. It is a riveting beginning to a tale that starts and ends at the same place.
A couple chapters in, and we are introduced to Sidney. Sidney is the pivot on which the story revolves. The ten-year-old orphan who plucks on the heartstrings and wires of all those around her. With a plucky attitude, the naivete from having been alone since she was 8, and her gizzard-eating survival instincts; Sidney is a joy to experience. Her little world is laid bare for us to fall into, and absorb it we do. Every aspect of her person – her heartbreak from losing her Nayne, her simple childish joy at watching eyes change colour, and her strong decision making – make her a deeply compelling character.
“Anything but bird,” is the first thing that pops out of her mouth. “Or rodent or lizard or…”
The woman laughs out loud as Sidney continues listing the things she doesn’t want to eat, all the things she’s eaten all her life that she’s had more than her share of, thank you very much.
“or gizzards,” is the final part.
When the bot meets Sidney, it gets a name. One guess what it is. This is when we start to see that 200 years of different types of programming, can overlap and reconfigure itself when children are at stake. It is beautiful watching the love that Petra begins to feel, and how she adapts her programming in response to it.
But until this point, the Allendian apocalypse sounds like a dream. Scavenging for bird nests for eggs, cuddling robot cats, escaping bots and dreaming of vaults full of food. That is, until we meet Henry. With Henry comes the perspective of a 40 something adult who has lived through the end of the world. He has witnessed first hand, the devastation the flu has truly had on Allendian society. While Sidney has managed to keep mainly to herself, Henry never had that privilege and was recruited at a young age as a raider, after losing his entire family. We see in him the shame of his past, his guilt, his regret, and ultimately, his hope for redemption through his new found saviours.
“I was still little when it all happened,” he says. “Everyone around me started getting sick. Then they were dying. I was taken away before it got really bad.”
All in all, Petra was a very thought provoking read, with a balance to the feel of the book that is rare. Stone has a knack for creating characters that have hearts, and for writing a road that you wish wouldn’t end. An easy to read book, with difficult moments and an ending worthy of a good cry with some hot chocolate.
You can find the eBook for Petra on Kindle and iTunes, and a physical copy can be picked up from Amazon. Check out the 30-day free trial of Kindle Unlimited while you’re at it.
Finished this book and keen to check out more Dystopian novels? Click here: 7 best Dystopian Novel series.