Pod, by Stephen Wallenfels (Namelos, 2009, YA because of violence, 212 pages), is a page-turner of a book that combines a Life as We Knew It style scenario with an alien invasion. When the aliens arrive, filling the sky with black pods, instantaneous death from above strikes any person who ventures outside. And yet, the aliens don't seem to be attacking directly--just picking off humans one by one...
"A white Honda is closest to me. Jamie is crouched down low, using her position to shield her from the sphere. It's a forty-yard dash to our front step.
A flash of light and two cars are gone.
She looks at me. There's a cut on her forehead, blood smeared on her cheek.
Another flash. The RV disappears.
Jamie is at the end of our driveway. Her eyes lock on mine.
She disappears, in a flash of blue-white light." (page 15)
And that's how 16-year old Josh is introduced to the pods. For Josh, trapped with his dad in their home in Washington with all lines of communication to the outside world cut, every day is a slow water torture of isolation in which the normal annoyance of a teenager toward his father is magnified by their circumstances. Their food and water is running out, he has no idea what has happened to his mother, horrible things are happening in the apartment building across the street...and he can do nothing.
Far to the south, 12-year old Megs is on the run inside a hotel parking lot. Her mother left her there earlier in the day, and now everyone else who had survived the first morning's horror has been corralled by the hotel owner into his dictatorship of greed and brutality. Only Megs, and her kitten friend, are still loose...but even with a gun (that she doesn't know how to use), Megs doesn't know how long she can survive on what she gleans from the parked cars.
The tension builds as the situation for each protagonist becomes progressively more grim. With the pods still watching, and killing anyone on the outside, those trapped inside have nothing to do but struggle to survive...
It is gripping stuff. Josh's story is more character driven--the relationship between the boy and his father is at the heart of his story. Megs' plot tells more of her brutal struggle to survive. But still, for Josh, there is horror, and for Megs, a backstory that is gradually revealed and that makes her a memorable character in her own right.
In short, a most excellent apocalypse, with lots of questions left unanswered for the sequel (or sequels).
Here's another review by Sheila at Wands and Worlds.
(disclosure: review copy provided by the publisher)