The premise of City of Orange by David Yoon immediately drew me in. An apocalyptic setting coupled with a narrator suffering from amnesia set up this novel to be an inventive adventure into speculative fiction. Unfortunately, it did not quite hit the mark for me. Continue reading to get my full take on this new release.
A man who can not remember his own name wakes up in an apocalyptic landscape, injured and alone. He has vague memories of life before, but he can’t see it clearly and can’t grasp how his current situation came to be. He must learn to survive by finding sources of water and foraging for food. Then he encounters a boy–and he realizes nothing is what he thought it was, neither the past nor the present.
City of Orange is a novel that is both harrowing and heartfelt, charged with a speculative energy but grounded in intimate character study. It is a novel about coming to grips with the worst that has befallen us and finding our way home again.
This imaginative and affecting new novel is beloved, bestselling, and award-winning author David Yoon at his finest: thought-provoking and heart-piercing, by turns funny and challenging, and at all times deeply human.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
I was very excited to see how the complications of amnesia would play into the suspense of the storyline. Often when starting in media res of an apocalyptic world the reader soon learns the cause of the state of the world. Instead, the obstacle of amnesia adds an intriguing layer that has such great potential. In City of Orange, however, it served to muddy the first half of the novel. I found myself becoming confused and uninterested at times. Adding amnesia is certainly a tricky element to include so I do have respect for Yoon’s usage of this narrative device.
The amnesia also removed the reader from the narrator. I did not feel that I knew the main character or felt incredibly drawn to his story. One could argue that technically that main character also didn’t know himself. I’m the type of reader that needs to feel connected to the narrator – even if I don’t like them. As the book progresses, it paints a clearer picture of the narrator, as he interacts with the (few) other characters that eventually are introduced.
The first half of City of Orange was very slow. I can see if people lose interest and do not finish it, unfortunately. The pacing did not pick up until the second half of the book. I will say, if you can get past the first half, the second half pushes along the narrative and you feel like you were getting places in the plot.
In the end, I still was confused and had questions. Certain aspects of the plot seemed unnecessary, while others could have been more fleshed out. I was fascinated by the blurb of City of Orange but it did not quite hit the mark for me.