In SCHOOL’S OUT by Scott Andrews, THE LORD OF THE FLIES meets the apocalypse. The result is a highly engaging book that dashes at a breakneck pace with plenty of action, a decent amount of realism, and great moral questions about survival.
Part of the Afterblight Chronicles, a series of books in a shared post-apocalyptic world where a deadly virus has wiped out most of the world, Andrews’s SCHOOL’S OUT tells the story of dazed boys returning to their boarding school. As lawlessness spreads across a collapsed UK, some of the boys overthrow the remaining teachers and establish a tribe of fighters. This pits 15-year-old Lee Keegan, a capable and thoughtful fighter, against the boys’ leader, a nearby community with its own warlord, and a roving tribe of cannibals.
The result is great fun with plenty of heart. While the prevalence of crazies as stock villains is fairly predictable, the action is more or less realistic, though the rapid succession of one horrible crisis after another in the second half gets a bit fatiguing. Keegan’s decision-making is authentic, aiming for morality but very practical, and laced with the question of how far does one must become a killer to make a world free of killing. He is extremely capable but no superhero, often making mistakes and getting battered by combat. I particularly enjoyed how the author periodically crushes the reader’s expectations by having reality make Keegan’s best-laid plans turn for the worse. Meanwhile, Mac, the boys’ leader, makes a great antagonist as he represents what Keegan could become without any restraining morals about killing and the exercise of power.
So overall, I liked it and will be reading his other two books about the “Cull,” sold packaged as the SCHOOL’S OUT FOREVER omnibus.