Four Teenagers.One Destroyed City.Thousands of
Infected Predators. Jesse is on a UN Youth Ambassadors camp in New York when his subway carriage is rocked by an explosion. Jesse and his three friends, Dave, Mini and Anna, crawl out from the wreckage to discover a city in chaos. Streets are deserted. Buildings are in ruins. Worse, the only other survivors seem to be infected with a virus that turns them into horrifying predators... Outnumbered. No sign of life. Just them. And you... ALONE.
Chasers, the first book in the Alone series by James Phelan is a story of the world being shocked askew. From the first page, the protagonist Jesse is out of place. He’s originally from Australia, but has moved to Manhattan and is on a field trip with other students when things change with a literal ball of fire. They get out of the subway to find that New York has been destroyed, and even worse, they’re on their own and afraid.
What follows is a story of the teenagers trying to figure out what’s happened, while at the same time trying to avoid anyone they encounter who has been infected with something strange that makes them something not a vampire and not quite a zombie. Essentially, Phelan combines aspects of both, and the resulting creatures are what most of the other survivors have turned into.
By setting the book in such a large city, the fact that there aren’t many people left alive becomes even more sharply realized, and on that count, Phelan does a good job. Stylistically, the lack of quotation marks when people talk in the present are a little jarring, and it can make the text seem to run together without much clarification as to who is talking, or when.
The story makes use of the effects that isolation can have on people, and as time goes on, how that informs their actions. There are some recordings and other mementos left behind by other people that the kids find as they explore the city, and in not finding these people, there is no question about what’s happened to them. One girl says it best when she confesses that she’s tired of being alone and doesn’t know who she is anymore. When compared to that, risking everything among the infected seems to her the better choice.
But, in spite of all these elements, the story feels very slow paced, and at times drags on. Since this is the first book in the series, it works at setting the stage for more action, and hopefully the sequel provides that in excess. Chasers offers a post-apocalyptic world where isolation is the norm and the cost of survival is weighed against a need for companionship.