False Dawn

Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
False Dawn Cover

False Dawn by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro


False Dawn is a dark vision of a polluted, destroyed and dying future world. Most of the cities are in ruin because of the pollution in the air and water, lack of food and the surviving hostile humans such as the Pirates. Pollution, poisonous gas and epidemics have wiped out most of the civilization. The survivals are hiding in remote places, and they try to stay away from the Pirates who are attacking them and killing all the Mutants. The Mutants are genetically altered people in order to increase their chance of survival in this world, and also deformed children (the majority) who are born this way which is like a reflection of what has become of this world. This apocalyptic vision of the future is still relevant nowadays, 34 years after the 1st publication of the book when everybody escalates environmental problems.

The main character Thea is a Mutant who looks the same as any other human, her eye lids being the only difference from the others. She has survived for 10 years alone on a constant run and staying away from the big cities. Thea meets a mutilated man named Montague who is a former leader of the Pirates and decides to help him. Both start their journey through the mountains seeking safety in the Cold Lake. It is said to be the last safe place in this world which is protected from the Pirates and other threats. Thea has been searching for the Cold Lake for all those 10 years, it has been her only hope that forced her not to give up. False Dawn is also a love story of a man and a woman, a kind of Adam and Eve who travel through this devastated world in search for the lost Eden – the Cold Lake.

The story also explores the topic of fear of those who are different from us – the Mutants. This irrational fear has caused wars, conflicts and discrimination over the centuries. Apparently during the end of the world, this fear gets even stronger. There are not any other important Mutant characters in the story except for Thea which is a bit disappointing. Her own abnormality is not threatening or explained in detail. However, the Pirates still treat her as a Mutant and seek only to kill her. Thea shows mercy and proves to be much more kind than any other Pirate, even though they feel themselves righteous to wipe all the Mutants from the Earth.

The reader experiences the contrast between two different age groups: the ones born before and after the catastrophe. Thea was already born into this dying world, and she has never known it as it was before, therefore, she does not even understand the people who lived before, and some simple pleasures or daily activities are alien to her. She is often shocked by the vanity and uselessness of such habits as having a hot bath, owning a lot of pretty but impractical things. Montague on the other hand is older that Thea, and he knows how the world looked like before the disaster, he survived it and has seen people and the world change. He is deeply hurt by it, especially because he has experienced personal loss during the end of the world.

This contrast also questions the consumerism of nowadays and a lack of appreciation of the daily pleasures most of the humans have – access to clean, hot water and food, a place where you belong, a safe place to stay, security about tomorrow, etc. Thea and Montague are constantly threatened by lack of food, human enemies (the Pirates and other thieves), animal predators, pollution, natural conditions such as winter, etc. They are grateful to survive a day, and are not giving up even in such severe and alien conditions. Their struggle is inspiring. Both have only each other and learn to understand and trust each other; they discovers one another's past, open wounds, and fears.

The mood and the atmosphere of the book at times reminded me of The Road, as it shares this dark vision of the devastated world (US and Europe), demonstrates the darkest instincts of human beings and shows the decline of our civilization and the world as we know it. There is this feeling of desperate need to survive despite any obstacles, even though there is no tomorrow.

It is a good read that raises questions which are very current nowadays and makes you appreciate and value the things as well as situations which are taken for granted.