Z for Zachariah is a novel
, written by Robert C. O'Brien
(1918?-1973), author of Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
and published posthumously
in 1975. Although it (seems) to take liberties on the science
side of things I enjoyed it greatly and would recommend it for anybody to read, but especially 10-15-year-olds
Z for Zachariah is the story of a 16 year old girl, Ann Burden, and a chemist in his mid 30s, John R. Loomis. It's set in the US Midwest in the 1950s. There has been a nuclear war with the Soviet Union that has killed everybody on earth, as far as she knows. She lives in a valley that was always known to have its own weather patterns and has escaped the effects of radioactive fallout. Ann lives on her own; the rest of her family went on a trip to the nearest town, which was outside the valley, to see if anyone was still alive. They never came back. But the book starts with a diary entry in which she writes that she has spotted a pillar of smoke, like one from a campfire, off in the distance. Every afternoon it moves closer and closer.
Before long she can see through her binoculars that it is a man in a green suit who is pulling a wagon. She is not alone. The man is John Loomis, a chemist from Ithaca, New York, where Cornell University used to be. He was working on a project to develop new types of anti-radioactive materials, when his team discovered a type of magnetic, and hence anti-radioactive, plastic. This is what his safe-suit and a water/air filtration unit on it is made of, and how he has survived his long journey.
SPOILER WARNING - IF YOU WANT TO READ THE BOOK READ NO FURTHER!!
But all is not well. John's past is more complicated than he lets on. Also, power corrupts and he soon turns into a tyrant, bent on making Ann his slave. This leaves her with no choice but to steal his safe-suit and escape.