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The Chaos (Numbers) by Rachel Ward
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
The Chicken House Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780545242691
Date: 01 March 2011 List Price $17.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

When fifteen-year-old Adam Dawson looks into your eyes, he can see the date of your death. It is a curse he inherited from his mom, Jem Marsh, who died of cancer when he was eight. Because of the rising oceans, Adam and his great-grandmother Nan have been forced to leave their seaside apartment in Weston and relocate to Kilburn in West London. During his travels, he looks into the eyes of many people and realizes that approximately one-third of them will die on January 1, 2027 or soon afterwards. At school, Adam meets Sarah Harrison who experiences nightmares of an impending disaster. Together, they must try to evacuate London before three million people die!

The Chaos is Rachel Ward's terrifying sequel to Numbers. In fact, I found The Chaos to be much more intriguing. In Numbers, dozens of people die at the London Eye Ferris Wheel when a bomb explodes. Most of the novel dealt with Jem and her boyfriend, Terry "Spider" Dawson, avoiding capture by the police who suspect them of planting the bomb; they were seen fleeing the Ferris wheel moments before the explosion. Some of Numbers was dry. Not so with The Chaos, which was non-stop action and suspense. From the opening chapter, the countdown to horror begins.

Poor Adam has more problems than the average teenager. He is an orphan living alone in a poor neighborhood with his chain-smoking Nan. He is in love with a rich girl, Sarah, who is terrified of him because she sees him in her dreams snatching her baby and walking into a hellish conflagration. He is victimized by the school bully, Junior Driscoll. Meanwhile, Adam wrestles with his curse. He is tormented by physical and emotional pain; he can actually feel the suffering of millions of Londoners who will be experiencing numerous types of gruesome deaths. He constantly debates with himself on whether he should warn the public about the approaching disaster. To make matters worse, the police want to arrest Adam for a murder he didnít commit.

I admire Adam for deciding to risk his life to warn millions of strangers of impending disaster. However, the one I admire most is Sarah. She leaves her abusive father and strikes out on her own. Initially, she finds herself living in a flat with a group of young prostitutes and a cruel pimp. Later, she becomes housemother to a trio of drug addicts. One of them is Vinnie who is her self-appointed guardian; he protects Sarah and her newborn baby, Mia.

The Chaos is written in the first person. Chapters alternate between Adam and Sarah. Each one describes events according to their point of view. Sometimes, especially towards the end of the novel, I became confused as to who was speaking, Adam or Sarah. Also, I found the language rather vulgar for the intended audience of fourteen- to eighteen-year-olds. I wouldn't want my fourteen-year-old nephew reading this novel. Also, the adult situations, such as prostitution, drug abuse, and incest, were too mature for young teenagers. (I'm merely stating this as a warning to parents who wish to monitor what their children are reading; I never allowed it to affect my overall evaluation of the novel.) Fortunately, there was the absence of a sex scene between teenagers as there was in Numbers. At least that was necessary in order for Jem to become pregnant and pass her curse on to the next generation.

The setting for The Chaos is an unique one. Here we have a futuristic London in the year 2026. The students all have palm-nets in which teachers can remotely download their lessons. Drones hover above the city; equipped with cameras, they constantly watch the citizens. Prisoners and newborn babies are injected with microchips, which make it easier for authorities to track them. Starvation, rioting and blackouts are common. The world is in political and economic turmoil; in other words, chaos reigns. Many religious people would say the end of the world is near.

The majority of the novel occurs around my favorite time of the year, the holiday season. Unfortunately, there is not much Christmas cheer at the Dawson residence. In fact, Nan has to remind Adam, who is consumed with worry, that it is Christmas. The cold, freezing weather plays a significant role; it will make it more difficult for people to survive the disaster of which the author doesnít spare the reader any gory details.

I highly enjoyed Rachel Ward's nightmarish novel, The Chaos. I recommend it for mature readers who like futuristic horror. If it was a movie, Iíd definitely give it an R rating because of the graphic language, drug abuse and violence. Nevertheless, I look forward to the next installment, Infinity, which, according to the author's website, will be available in England in June 2011. Perhaps, in this novel, someone will look into the eyes of everyone around them and realize that a natural disaster will not only destroy a city, but the entire world. I do know this, there will be some hell raising and chaos at my home if I don't get to review Infinity.

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