What would you do if 98% of the world’s population were wiped out by a deadly virus? It’s a question thirteen-year old Nico Storm and his father Willem are forced to answer in the wake of ‘the fever’. They have lived alone for years, collecting supplies when they can, but always alert because the devastation left behind has pushed many to the brink of desperation. The things that had held the civilised world together- electricity, money, debts, jobs, criminal justice- have gone and the survivors of ‘the fever’ have a choice to make; to rebuild the world they knew or let the new world order take control.
Nico’s father has a vision, of a community built from the grief and chaos. He chooses Vanderkloof as the site of this new sanctuary and through fate and determination, Amanzi is created. But there are those who don’t share Willem’s views and that might have a deadly result.
Dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction tends to have a lot of action, and while Fever certainly has its fair share, there is an emphasis on the people and their philosophies. Rebuilding a community is no easy task, and as more survivors seek refuge in Amanzi, there are more ideas about what is the right way. Religious leaders like Pastor Nkosi are eager to let God rule, Willem believes in the separation of Church and State, and Domingo, a hard man with a military background believes that a more totalitarian approach is needed. With so many voices clamouring to be heard, the tensions rise quickly, especially with the added pressure of survival.
It’s not just inside the walls of Amanzi. There are those outside who have an entirely different ideology, preferring to pillage and ransack. The biker gangs that terrorise the roads. They have taken advantage of the lawlessness caused by ‘the fever’ and take what they need from others rather than building for themselves. The contrast between the two lifestyles is stark. While one group of people have tried to recreate some semblance of the old world, the bikers have embraced the anarchy of their post-fever reality. What is it that draws them to one way of life over another?
Through everything, Willem is a voice of tolerance and compromise. He finds himself painfully placed between Domingo and Pastor Nkosi but despite that he manages to hold his ground with a quiet strength that isn’t always seen by his son. The relationship between Willem and Nico is complex. Nico has to grow up quickly, having to protect his father as a child means he loses the awe he had for him too soon. He has years of his father’s undivided attention and loses it to the needs of an entire town, but as he grows up he comes to appreciate his father and the sacrifices he has made.
The novel has a surprising end, a conspiracy that is satisfying to unpick, but for me the pleasure was in Amanzi itself, and seeing people who had lost everything still have the capacity to hope.