"A dense black cloud boiled up in the southeastern sky. It rose high and fast, like a time-lapse movie of the birth of a thunderhead. But it was no rain cloud. Wholly black, it reached up and loomed over her, blocking out the sun. Somehow she knew it was Death coming at her.
Pre-med student Coral is on a vacation in Idaho when something terrible happens. The black cloud is followed by a wildfire and searing heat that lasts for days. She survives deep in a cave but emerges days later to find the world transformed, a world of blackened trees, an ash-filled sky, and no living creatures except her.
So begins her desperate journey: to find water, and food, and other survivors...and the answer to the mystery of what happened..."
"Who was there, after all, to stop any one person from hurting someone less powerful in this empty, lawless world? Nothing but a person's own conscience, a person's core character."
This was such a good read. Gray is an engrossing, character-driven post-apocalyptic story. It's exactly the type of story I love: a story about survival, and what it means to be human. It's about who we are, and what we are capable of when stripped down to our basic essence and faced with the most dire of circumstances. It will either bring out the worst in us, the best in us, or something in between.
Coral, the protagonist, is an amazing character. She's strong, intelligent, resourceful, and most importantly, human. I cared for her deeply. And what she goes through often made me wonder what I would do faced with similar circumstances. I honestly don't know if I could make it.
The story follows Coral's journey as she tries to cope with the aftermath of an apocalyptic event. She's alone for a good chunk of this, which you would think would make for a boring read, but which in fact I found riveting. I couldn't put this book down.
The one criticism I have is with the dialogue, which felt a bit stiff and wooden in some places. I also came across a few typographical errors, such as an extra word or a missing word, and reversed words. They were very few, approx. 8 instances, and while I'm usually a stickler when it comes to such things, in this case it didn't detract from my enjoyment of the story.
There are a lot of loose ends at the end of Gray--same with Part II--so just keep in mind that each part does not fully stand on its own. You'll have to read all three parts to get a full resolution.
I've already finished Part II, which I also loved, and now I'm waiting for Part III, which will be released in early 2016.
So, if you're looking for a compelling, character-driven post-apocalyptic story, and you like stories of survival à la Cast Away, as well as the more quiet human struggles of the characters of The Walking Dead (sans zombies, of course), I recommend giving Gray a shot.
Final Rating: 4 stars