I am delighted to be reviewing The Waiting Rooms as part of the blog tour today. My review is written with thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me on the tour and to Orenda Books for my copy of the book.
Decades of spiraling drug resistance have unleashed a global antibiotic crisis. Ordinary infections are untreatable, and a scratch from a pet can kill. A sacrifice is required to keep the majority safe: no one over seventy is allowed new antibiotics. The elderly are sent to hospitals nicknamed ‘The Waiting Rooms’ … hospitals where no one ever gets well.
Twenty years after the crisis takes hold, Kate begins a search for her birth mother, armed only with her name and her age. As Kate unearths disturbing facts about her mother’s past, she puts her family in danger and risks losing everything. Because Kate is not the only secret that her mother is hiding. Someone else is looking for her, too.
Sweeping from an all-too-real modern Britain to a pre-crisis South Africa, The Waiting Rooms is epic in scope, richly populated with unforgettable characters, and a tense, haunting vision of a future that is only a few mutations away.
Imagine a time when hospitals are full of people requiring life saving treatment, people are encouraged to stay at home to avoid the spread of infection and those who do go out wear masks in public. I assume that when Smith wrote The Waiting Rooms, she had little idea how close to the truth her speculative novel would actually be – at least in such a short space of time – and this made reading it a little scary! The crisis this time is an antibiotics crisis (which is not as far away as we’d like to think) and its effects are very far reaching, affecting aspects of life and society that I’d not even thought about. Smith has researched this plot incredibly well and I am in awe of the way she has taken this idea and made it accessible to even reluctant science fiction readers like me.
The Waiting Rooms tells the story of Kate, Lily and Mary, who all relate to the crisis in a slightly different way. The narration switches between them, which helps the reader to gain a little more insight into their separate lives, whilst giving us small hints as to how they might be connected. Although each character has clearly made mistakes in the past, I did find myself able to sympathise with each one for different reasons and I felt invested in their lives and compelled to read on to discover what happened to them.
Smith is a very talented writer and her brilliant way with words shines through the whole novel. This is especially notable at the ending, which I found incredibly poignant. I am looking forward to seeing what she writes next.
The Waiting Rooms is available from Amazon.
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