Audiobook Review: The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

30 05 2012

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

Read by Vane Millon

Listening Library

Length: 9 Hrs 31 Min

Genre: Young Adult Post Apocalyptic

Quick Thoughts: The Forrest of Hands and Teeth exceeded all my expectations. It’s a beautifully told tale that takes many risks, most of which pay off well. It has a classic, almost historical feel, which you don’t find often in Zombie fiction.

Grade: A-

One of the most fascinating topics when discussing Post Apocalyptic fiction and the potentials of a Post Apocalyptic culture is religion. I had a very religious upbringing, and while I don’t spend nearly as much time in church or other religious pursuits today, religion still greatly influences many aspects of my life, Religion often get lots of bad press, unfortunately, because it also has the ability to uplift human kind, to make them better than their animalistic nature. The problem is that religion is often abused. Some of the worst atrocities and injustices committed by men where done in the name of religion. There are many great and diverse Post Apocalyptic novels that deal with the roles of religion in rebuilding and shaping society after a cataclysm including Walter Miller’s A Canticle for Leibowitz, Sterling Lanier’s Heiro’s Journey and Orson Scott Card’s Folk on the Fringe. What I like about these books is that religion itself isn’t demonized, although people within the religious power structure do commit heinous acts. In Post Apocalyptic settings, religion can be used as a tool for suppression of knowledge. It is often shown as a perversion of good intentions, the apocalypse came about because man had lost their way, and the only way to get back on track is strident adherence to the will of God. This is always a dangerous road, because what truly is the will of God is subjective, and in the end, religious domination in post apocalyptic settings becomes about the will of man.

In The Forrest of Hands and Teeth, Carrie Ryan introduced us to Mary, a young girl living in an isolated gated community generations after a Zombie Apocalypse. Mary’s society is run by the sisterhood, who control all information about the rise of the unconsecrated and society before the collapse. After Mary’s mother is bitten by one of the undead, Mary is forced to move in with the sisterhood where her curious nature, and desire for the boy who is promised to another puts her in conflict with the sisterhood’s stern leader. Carrie Ryan’s writing has an old fashion classic feel to it that reminded me of Hawthorne’s The Scarlett Letter. I found the character of Mary both sympathetic and frustrating. Like many young adult and romance leads, I found Mary to be quite selfish, choosing to value her desires over that of the good of the others. The difference here is this is something Mary acknowledges. Her character has depths to her that I found refreshing, and I could easily forgive her selfishness based on the fact that any control of her life is out of her hands. She must wait for either her brother to bring her until her home, or a man to ask for her hand in marriage or she would be turned over to the sisterhood. She is given a stark, uncompromising choice of life in the sisterhood, or death, which in reality is no choice. Mary, and in particular her womb, is treated as a commodity a tool to propagate society, and she has to either accept this as her role, or rock the boat by looking for more. I really couldn’t blame Mary for the choices she made, and found her character fascinating. Ryan’s prose is often deliberate and sharp, and she creates a lot of tension with an economy of words. This works well with the action sequences, allowing the listener to easily follow what was going in in situations that can get quite muddled. The Forrest of Hands and Teeth exceeded all my expectations. It’s a beautifully told tale that takes many risks, most of which pay off well. It has a classic, almost historical feel, which you don’t find often in Zombie fiction.

Vane Millon’s narration was weirdly paced with strange pauses and inflections and early on in the narration she almost seemed uncomfortable with the narrative. She has an offbeat, exotic alto tone that was unlike the typical voice used by narrators in books featuring young female protagonist. I have to say, I totally loved it. Millon’s voice, with its early unsurity, and strange, almost vibrato tone brought a classic feel that perfectly matched the style of the novel. Her voice only highlighted the depths of Mary’s character. Something about Mary just felt different and this worked well to highlight a character breaking away from the accepted in a controlled civilization. I imagine there will be many who feel Millon’s narration less than stellar, yet, I found it refreshing. I am sort of sick of the squealing, high pitched, almost whiney voices often used in young adult novels. Sometimes that is appropriate to the text, here is wasn’t. I am sort of sad to see she has very little narration work on her resume, because based on her performance here, I would definitely want to check it out.

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4 responses

30 05 2012
tina garcia

i just finished all three books in this series on audio-very good- A

30 05 2012
Tanya/ dog eared copy

Wow, between @BethFishReads’ and your recommendation, this looks to be Must for the TBL queue! 🙂

2 06 2012
DevourerofBooks (@DevourerofBooks)

I’m really glad they didn’t go whiny for Mary, that would have been disastrous. I liked the second book in this series more, because there is a bit more world building, Mary was so in the dark that I was frustrated being limited by her lack of knowledge.

15 06 2012
Easy Simple Healthy Recipes Blog

Beautiful Young Woman Teeth Isolated…

[…] religion can be used as a tool for suppression of knowledge. It is often shown […]…

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