Book Review: All That Remains by Al Barrera

Cover via Goodreads.
Cover via Goodreads.

Thirteen years ago, the world ended. It was not by nuclear fallout, and as far as the reader can tell, it may have been extraterrestrial in origin: whatever caused it remains shrouded in mystery, even as this quick, action-packed tale comes to an end.

All That Remains by Al Barrera is a dystopian, science-fiction novel that takes place after some largely unidentified horror falls over the world and follows a small band of survivors as they struggle to remain alive in a world that has changed drastically. It is a quick, entertaining read that may leave the reader wanting more, if said reader only has a hunger for action, rather than any real development, character or plot-wise.

As a reader, what I found to be the most frustrating element of Barrera’s book was the complete and total lack of character depth. I have a soft spot for post-apocalyptic scenarios, perhaps because it is far easier to imagine our world coming to a sudden halt than it is for dragons and magic to emerge out of nothingness. When the world ends, the most primal needs of the human existence come to the forefront: our need to survive, no matter the cost. It is these natural behaviors that draw many fans to series like The Walking Dead, because we’re able to watch as people that, having taken the simplicities of their existence for granted, become their true selves. While we do see this sort of behavior in All That Remains, it is largely personified in minor characters whose presence are fleeting as best. The main characters, Sara, Tim, Kyle, and Kaylee, are largely without personality. What characteristics of self they do possess is, for the most part, stereotypical of their age group.

The story’s plot, though extremely action driven, is simplistic at best: a scientist finds a solution to the problem that is to be delivered to another lab that can put it to work. En route, something happens and the answer changes hands, leaving it to the heroes of our story to carry out the mission. It’s a tale that could easily be woven in a few pages, but Barrera’s knack for being able to create a lot of action allows him to turn what might have otherwise been a boring read into one that is filled with excitement.

For the most part, All That Remains flows pretty smoothly and ties up a lot of loose ends, but not all of them. At the conclusion of the book, I was left with unanswered questions, largely regarding the origin of the apocalypse, especially since it seems to be a hybrid zombie-alien sort of thing. That, and the fact that one of the characters sustains a very grievous injury that is completely glossed over. In the acknowledgment at the end, Barrera hints at a follow-up to this book, and I definitely plan to keep it on my radar. This is definitely one of those cases where the story’s action carries it where it would have fallen flat otherwise.

I would like to thank the publisher, NetGalley, and the author for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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