An immersive, fascinating, and heartfelt story about the end of the world The Never-Ending End of the World by Ann Christy (Campfire Press, released August 8, 2023) is one of those “everyone is gone” apocalypses but in a new and intriguing way.
Coco Wells hasn’t seen another living person since she was a teenager. All of Manhattan is reliving the same few seconds, minutes, or hours on a loop… and they have been for years. Everything looks normal from a distance, but up close it’s a nightmare.
Coco is a survivor. She scavenges for food, reads, and—most importantly—avoids loopers. They ignore her, but only as long as she’s silent. She’s learned the painful lesson that a broken loop can mean death.
After eight years of solitude, learning to survive and precisely timing the loops that weave around the city, Coco wonders what lies beyond New York and what has become of the rest of the world.
As she leaves home for the first time, one question haunts her above all:
“Am I the only one left?”
Speculative sci-fi, dystopian apocalypse, and scientific mystery coalesce into The Never-Ending End of the World — a gripping tale of survival, hope, and love from retired Naval Officer Ann Christy.
It should be no surprise that I read a lot of post-apocalyptic books, and I have never encountered one with this premise. It’s more on the sci-fi aspect of post-apocalyptic than speculative or action-based, and the idea is that most of the people in the world have been trapped in these “loops,” that is, they are reliving ad infinitum a section of their lives. It was so incredibly interesting and different from other concepts in the genre. The loop could be anything, from getting a bowl of cereal and starting to eat it, to having twenty seconds of phone conversation, to hours of working or even sleeping. The thing that causes an issue is that if you disrupt said person – if you are loud or try and touch them – as they freak out and try and kill you, then they disappear. It’s wild!
The story starts out with us not knowing much about the world, but we quickly understand that Coco has been alone since it started and relies on charting the paths of loopers and eating unlooped food to survive.
I assumed that most of the novel would be about her living alone in this world and, eventually, finally another person, but that time flies by surprisingly quickly (but not too quickly that it felt rushed), and soon it becomes a “rebuild after the apocalypse” story, but with a very important twist (that I won’t reveal of course).
This is one of those apocalypse novels that is a far cry from The Road in that most people are not cannibalistic lunatics or raiders. In fact, most people are average, decent people who are looking for a way to survive and be part of a community. Preston Garvey from Fallout 4 would love it.
These groups have differences of opinion on what the loopers are, what they mean, or how to deal with them, but it was fascinating from an anthropological viewpoint to watch this new civilization begin to grow.
There is a whole lot more to their communities than that (far far more), but I’m trying hard here not to spoil anything as there are some really fun things in this book. Yet, if you’re looking for something dark and gritty and violent, you won’t find that. This is a novel that’s less about surviving than it is about rebuilding after a strange calamity.
The novel incorporates an interesting structure. It’s dual point of view, third person, but each section starts with a first-person journal entry. These were excellent as they broadened the characterization (which was needed, given the time span of the book) and gave some larger insights from a more subjective point of view. The first person wouldn’t have been as engaging had it been the entire novel, so I really liked this structure.
The characters are good. They are a little too perfect at times, with the conflict being more in the background than the forefront. Yet, I kind of liked that aspect. It was refreshing in a way to have an apocalypse novel about regular people who aren’t psychopaths or heroes, just humans who don’t gravitate to conflict and are good to one another. The story is very firmly about family, about love, about caring for others, and that was … nice.
While I was thoroughly enjoyed the read, the middle of the novel does dip a bit in tension. It’s not egregious, but there was a point when things felt a bit too easy. This could have been intentional though, a calm before the storm sort of thing, but I was kind of hoping it would pick up at that point.
Overall, if you want an end-of-the-world story that features a big mystery, has a unique premise, is a tale that spans forty years, has easy and engaging prose, includes realistic and normal people in an extraordinary situation, and might make you cry (especially if you’re a parent) definitely check it out!