{Review} Tomorrow Land by Mari Mancusi

Tomorrow Land by Mari Mancusi hit my sweet spot for book brain candy.

And, yes, that’s a compliment—good book brain candy is hard to come by. However, I want to say from the outset that Tomorrow Land is campy. It’s cheesy. It’s over-the-top. But, I love action movies and comic book-inspired movies, so I’m always up for a bit of ridiculousness in my entertainment. If you don’t enjoy those things too, Tomorrow Land is not at all for you. 

Previously published in paperback as Razor Girl by now-defunct Dorchester (Goodreads, Amazon), Tomorrow Land is available only as an ebook (I believe it’s self-published, but it’s obviously professionally edited and formatted) at the moment. It is my understanding that Tomorrow Land was retooled as a YA novel while Razor Girl was an adult novel (I am curious as to the differences—Google hasn’t helped in determining this). 

The premise is a bit… wild.

Peyton has been holed up in a bunker with her mother for four years following an unfortunate virus that wiped out a huge amount of the population, leaving the unluckiest as zombie-like creatures known as Others. The few “normal” people left are largely young (this is actually explained, but to reveal why would be massively spoilery). Peyton was physically augmented with special features, including razor blades that extend out of her fingers and crazy lenses on her eyes that have night vision, heat sensors and GPS. Chase, Peyton’s first love formerly known as Chris, spent the last four years in a Walmart with his brother and a rag-tag group of young kids. Early in the novel, the two are reunited, and they set out on a journey to Disney World, with the children in tow.

Yes, this sounds a lot like Zombieland meets The Tribe* meets Wolverine. And I’m totally okay with that. 

The story is told in third person point-of-view, with alternating timeframes and alternating perspectives. At first, I find this hopping a bit frustrating, as I kept forgetting which timeframe we were in at any given moment (this would have been greatly aided by chapter headings), but about a third of the way in, I got into the rhythm of the storytelling and it was not longer a problem. I am grateful that this novel was written in third person, because if it had been in first person, say from Peyton’s perspective, it would not have worked for me—the over-the-topness would have been absurd in first person. For example, Chase’s worship of Peyton, 

And Peyton. Beautiful, determined, amazing Peyton.

 

or even worse, 

How dare someone make his goddess cry?


No 19-year old boy thinks like this! But, for some reason, because the storytelling does have that action movie-like quality, it worked.

Don’t judge me, okay?

There is a significant plot point involving Peyton’s father and his obsession with the novel Neuromancer (Amazon, Goodreads). He is fixated on the character Molly Millions, the Razor Girl, hence Peyton’s “enhancements” that help her survive the zombie apocalypse, 

“You’re awake!” her dad cried, entering the room. He grinned widely as his eyes caught her face. “You look beautiful,” he murmured. “Just like her. Just like Molly Millions.”

She realized he was still clutching his worn copy of Neuromancer, and she wanted to reach out and smack it from his grip. Tear it up into a thousand pieces. 

This element is seriously messed up and moved the Tomorrow Land from a simple campy zombie read into a place where I was emotionally invested. There’s not anything else that I can share without being massively spoilery, but this plotline is key to how the two timelines within the novel finally merge. 

I also really enjoyed that Peyton and Chase had an already-established relationship.

Their relationship is rocky due to their four year separation thanks to the zombies, but regardless there is context and history to their story—it never felt like rushed instant love as is the trend in many post-apocalyptic novels. Both characters have significant obstacles to overcome (Zombies aren’t their only problem!) and Chase’s issue in particular is quite painful for both characters, and was quite believable (for this type of novel, that is). 

There are a few other notable points that stood out to me in Tomorrow Land:

  • Stop the presses, this is a standalone dystopian! In a market flooded with trilogies and unnecessary sequels, this is so refreshing.
  • The interactions between the 19-year olds and the younger children are really fun and, at times, touching. These were some of my favorite scenes.
  • The pace is almost break-neck, and it works great. I blew through most of Tomorrow Land on a Sunday morning—there’s little lingering on unnecessary details that slow down the action.

There were a few elements that drove me nuts, particularly all of the pop culture references.

This is one of my buttons and it bothered me even more when they’re meant to be framed as “retro,” such as the Twilight jokes in the first couple chapters—the humor fell flat. Additionally, Peyton and Chase fall victim to Classic Teen Horror Movie Syndrome, in which they repeat the same actions, expecting different results (i.e., going off on their own and ending up in unsafe situations). And, I could have done with the cheesy final chapter (and final line) that was essentially like an epilogue without being labeled as such. Finally, I could have done without the repeated references to Peyton’s tiny body and general attractiveness—I gave it a pass because I’d shifted into action/comic book mode, but in retrospect, it bothered me as this is one of my other “buttons.”

Regardless of these reservations, I enjoyed Mari Mancusi’s Tomorrow Land in the same way I enjoyed Married with Zombies, Heart of Steel or Perfect Chemistry or my beloved action movies such as Zombieland: It’s the best kind of fun escapism. 

Verdict: Recommended for people who want a light, fluffy read and don’t mind a healthy serving of cheese;
Highly recommended for fans of action flicks/comic book-style stories.

{Buy Tomorrow Land: Amazon}

{Author’s website.}


Note: I received a review copy of Tomorrow Land from the publisher via Net Galley. I received no compensation or other “goodies” in exchange for this review.

*Please tell me I’m not the only person who’s seen that show from New Zealand—I watched it every day when I lived in Ireland.

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