Book Review: Campbell by C. S. Starr

campbellCampbell by C. S. Starr

Published: November 8th 2013 by C. S. Starr

Source: finished copy from author


It’s been ten years since a virus wiped out the adult population. Across the world, opportunistic kids worked to reestablish order through the creation of uneasy, fractured territories.

A decade later, the rules are changing.

Desperate to stop his western territory from coming apart at the seams, Connor Wilde sends his oldest confidante to negotiate with the leader of Campbell, a swelling northern empire.

Tal Bauman isn’t expecting her to be so impossible.

Or intriguing. Or beautiful.

He’s also not expecting their negotiations to leave them both fighting for survival in a part of the world neither are familiar with.

Spanning a dystopian North American landscape, Campbell is the story of two unlikely companions who find themselves reevaluating their loyalties, beliefs, and futures.

My thoughts: I’ve read a lot of dystopian/post-apocalpytic young adult literature and a lot books that have been classified as new adult. I don’t always select a book to read because because the synopsis or genre are personally appealing to me. A lot of my reading is guided by my professional life. I get paid to write about books, recommend books, and buy books for other people to read. It’s inevitable I’ll read some I don’t personally like, and I accept that. I chose to read this because the author is a friend and we’ve read each other’s writing for years (though I didn’t read this before publication). I was scared because of previous experiences with New Adult and post-apocalyptic stories I wouldn’t like it—but despite a rough beginning, I ended up being very impressed by this novel by indie author C. S. Starr.

I’ve read a lot of post-apocalyptic novels that haven’t delivered on the promise of their hook, and I’ve read a lot of new adult that was cheesy and melodramatic, but reading Campbell proved to me that you can take a concept that’s been done before and make it fresh and compelling, and that the new adult category can be more than formulaic contemporary romance.

The prologue immediately draws you into this a world where children have had to completely rebuild civilization after a virus killed the entire adult population. The world is divided into territories ruled by gangs of kids who lost their family, and now they’re in their twenties. Tal is second in command to Connor, a poor leader with a selfish streak who fears that the Campbell family is encroaching on his territory. Tal is charged with visiting Lucy, the leader, and trying to broker a truce.

As so often is the case with post-apocalyptic futures, the details of how people have managed to survive at all are a little fuzzy. But world-building isn’t the point of this story; instead, it’s about people and what drives them and how they react in impossible situations.

Lucy is mercurial and difficult to sympathize with at first, but slowly won me over. Connor was a bit too easy to hate, and Tal on his own wasn’t all that remarkable, but the chemistry between Lucy and Tal drew me into their story. They are initially suspicious of one other, but a developing connection is evident in their banter.

Starr’s writing is approachable yet provacative. Once I got into the story it went very quickly, but I often paused to reflect on the character’s thoughts and motivations. There is a nice balance of action and more contemplative moments.

Readers who are interested in the idea of new adult stories where the characters are more mature but the writing still has the same urgency of young adult literature but have been disappointed in the lack of variety in the category in terms of genre should definitely check out Campbell by C. S. Starr. It’s refershingly different. Starr is an author to watch.


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