(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)
It’s the future—the very near future—and the fossil fuels are running out. No gas. No oil. Which means no driving. No heat. Supermarkets are empty. Malls have shut down. Life has just become more local than we ever knew it could be.
Nobody expected the end to come this fast. And in the small town of Sage Valley, decisions that once seemed easy are quickly becoming matters of life and death. There is hope—there has to be hope—but there are also sacrifices that need to be made, and a society that needs to be rethought. Niki, Tom, and Gwen may find what they need to survive. But their lives are never going to be the same again.
Let’s see, how can I sum up this book? Well, maybe ‘awesome premise, poor characters and mediocre execution’ is a good way to do it. I’ll start with the first point.
Empty by Suzanne Weyn has an awesome premise. The world is running out of fossil fuels…so what’s humanity going to do? Through newspaper clippings and radio reports we see that the United States goes to war over oil with one of the few gasoline producing nations still left in the world (Venezuela). We also see rampant stupidity like people still cranking the air conditioning in summer, cranking the heat in winter, charging their cell phones and driving everywhere. Yes, this would likely happen, but more people would be able to cut back than Suzanne Weyn is predicting. Still, Empty had a pretty awesome premise, you can’t deny that.
But the characters, oh the characters! Can we say ‘stock characters’ or what? You’ve got the jock, the mysterious Goth chick, the guy next door, the bimbo cheerleader who really has a heart of gold, the dumb jock. Did any creativity go into manufacturing characters? Meh, probably not. By now I’m used to Suzanne Weyn’s characters being less than stellar, but the ones in Empty just felt contrived, especially in their interactions with others. The dialogue felt stiff and there was really nothing unique about them. The attempts at romance between these characters was just cringe-worthy in a contrived, all stories need romance to appeal to teens, kind of way.
Now, onto the mediocre execution: this was a good premise done in a ‘meh’ way. A fuel crisis? Awesome; not all that many authors have done it with as much research as Suzanne Weyn put in this time. But could we please, please bring back something called subtlety? I support cutting back on emissions and searching for alternative energy sources but I felt like I was being preached at the whole time. Yes, having a message is great, but does it have to be beat-you-over-the-head-with-a-stick obvious? No, not really. For a much better apocalyptic book, see Earth Abides by George R. Stewart. Don’t waste your time with this one, even though it is less than 200 pages.
I give this book 2.5/5 stars.