BLURB: “Ninety minutes.
A few years from now, not too far in the future, two people meet. It is a classic story of boy meets girl. Except that it’s not. When we find them, they have an hour and a half left. Unless they can save themselves, they won’t survive.”
REVIEW: I was really intrigued by this book, which was bought for me as a gift by my boyfriend when I was going through a particularly difficult time. The premise – a couple who have only ninety minutes left to live – is interesting, and as a reader I was automatically hooked. The novel opens with two astronauts, Max and Carys, having been stranded from their spacecraft and currently floating out amongst the stars, with a diminishing air supply and no feasible way of saving themselves. From this point onwards, the novel switches between their present situation and their past life together, telling the reader the story of their relationship and the world in which they inhabit.
There is initially a vague indication of Max and Carys belonging to a world not unlike our own, but with a vastly different set of rules and political systems. In this world, people are encouraged to live as individuals rather than settling down as couples or families, and go on ‘rotation’ to different parts of the world every few years in order to stop them getting too comfortable anywhere and wasting their potential. At first, the reader is unsure if this is a kind of dystopia or if it is a post-apocalyptic version of our current world. It is later revealed that the latter is true, as we discover that the whole system of the world has changed after nuclear war broke out between the USA and the Middle East, destroying half the world. The relationship that blossoms between Max and Carys is therefore forbidden under their world’s laws, yet it also represents stability in a world in which people are expected to constantly move and change. The depiction of the relationship itself is also very realistic and believable, and many of the feelings the characters discussed and situations they were in reminded me frequently of both my past relationship and my current one, indicating the true realism of Khan’s writing.
The book becomes even more fascinating when, after the reader has become fully attached to Carys and Max and become a champion of their dangerous relationship, we return to the stars among which they are about to die. The death of Max in this chapter, who sacrifices himself to save Carys, is truly heartbreaking, and Khan’s depiction of Carys’ grief after the event is quietely brilliant. I was grieving myself whilst reading this novel, and really felt the depth and empathy of the chapters following Max’s death.
However, the novel then provides us with an alternate ending; one where Carys dies in order to save Max. This is equally as heartbreaking, and the way in which Max falls apart after Carys’ death is also brilliantly written. But. In a third and final unexpected twist, Khan then provides us with another possible ending; one in which Carys and Max realise that they cannot both survive, and that neither of them wish to carry on without the other – and end their lives together by cutting off their own air supplies simultaneously. This ending was the most beautiful and tragic of them all, and the only one that did not have me sitting there in tears – there was a sense of choice, and a sense of love, that made this ending my favourite one, and the one I felt most likely to have occurred if the novel were a real story. Although we as the reader do not actually know which is the real ending – it is left up to us to decide – I feel this is the one that made the most sense after learning of the relationship between the two characters, and I think will be the ending that most readers truly believe in.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book; it was unsual, romantic and excellently written, and I would highly recommend it.