Book review: Shetland by Jack Spain



Book review – Shetland by Jack Spain

My rating: An enjoyable 3.5 stars out of 5

“Once upon a time in plague-infested Britain…”

The first sentence says it all. It’s a story seen through the eyes of Karen, a 14-year-old who has been forced to grow up fast following the death of her parents. It has been five years since the outbreak of a deadly plague known as The Loop, so called in that it leaves spiral patterns on its victim’s skin. Karen leads her two young siblings through the wastelands of England, heading north towards Scotland, trying to reach The Shetland Islands, some five hundred miles away.

Living off scraps and tinned food scavenged along the way, the three children are skeletal thin. It quickly becomes clear that this will not be an easy journey. Death is all around them. Danger is never far away. The plague must be eradicated, whatever the costs. The whole of Britain has been turned into a giant quarantine zone policed by helicopter gunships, scanning the ground with infrared technology hunting for the last remaining survivors. The children learn to evade capture and travel unseen, dodging rival survivor groups, mistrusting those they come into contact with.

In many ways, Shetland reminded me of The End of the World Running Club by Adrian J Walker. An apocalyptic event followed by an epic journey where the reader gets to glimpse what remains of a shattered world. There were some shocking moments along the way (no spoilers), perhaps to be expected in a world without rules. The first half slipped along enjoyably, but there were patches where the pace slowed, and it wasn’t clear where the story was heading. But the finale was in many ways unexpected and justified the time investment, leaving aside a few unanswered questions and suspension of disbelief in places. A few other reviews I read of Shetland fixated a lack of descriptive writing and one of two noticeable typos/errors, but if you like a good story and have a decent imagination, then you’ll enjoy this one.

My rating: An enjoyable 3.5 stars out of 5