The Line Between (Howard Books, Reprint edition, 2019, paperback, 384 pages, $8.64) and the sequel, A Single Light (2020, 384 pages, paperback, $17.00) by Tosca Lee, is the story of Wynter Roth, who grew up in New Earth, a religious cult run by Magnus, a megalomaniac.
In The Line Between, Wynter is indoctrinated at an early age, along with her sister, Jackie, into the belief system of the cult. Wynter might have continued living as a true believer in New Earth if she hadn’t started working in Magnus’s office. Here, she overhears disturbing conversations. Magnus, who calls himself the ‘Mouthpiece of God,’ then takes a romantic interest in her, even though he is married to her sister and they have a daughter. Wynter tries to discourage the man’s overtures, but the gossip mill in their small community alerts Jackie to Magnus’ flirtations, alienating her from her sister.
Wynter feels trapped. She believes that the outside world is destined to experience an apocalypse and the only way to save herself and her soul is to remain in New Earth. But then the unthinkable happens and she is cast out. Wynter is devastated that she will no longer be able to make amends with her sister or see her niece, Truly.
In the outside world, Wynter moves in with her mother’s best friend, Julie. But just as she is acclimating to the unfamiliar and uncensured world of television, music, and the internet, a pandemic erupts. The virus causes rapid early onset dementia. Wynter obsesses over the news and struggles to control her PTSD. Then one night, as the world seems to have collapsed into an apocalyptic state, Jackie appears at her house with medical samples that could be used to develop a vaccine. A high-speed, cross-country trek ensues where Wynter joins forces with a man named Chase, and the race to save humanity is on. The Line Between can be summed up as Emma Cline’s ‘The Girls’ taking place in the age of a pandemic. The quality of writing and storytelling in The Line Between had me reaching for the sequel immediately after turning the final page.
In A Single Light, the story picks up with Wynter and Chase and about 60 other people, including her niece, Julie, and Julie’s daughter Lauren, riding out the pandemic in an underground barracks called “The Silo”. The Silo is the mastermind of Noah, a survivalist who designed the structure so that the occupants are in lockdown for 6 months. His theory was that by then a vaccine would be available. Noah, who remained topside, provides video updates of the status of the world. But then his daily briefing suddenly stops. The unlock system is automatically set so his disappearance isn’t catastrophic, yet the uncertainties associated with this new development finds the story of the Silo occupants taking on elements of ‘The Lord of the Flies.’ As “Open Day” nears, a tragic accident forces Wynter and Chase out of the Silo and into a dystopian world where gasoline and medicine are impossible to find. Sequels often lack the punch of the first novel, but A Single Light is as compelling as The Line Between.
What is perhaps most disturbing about both of these novels is how many similarities there are between them and our real-life pandemic. Remarkably, Lee’s fictional pandemic descriptions were already published before COVID appeared. These page-turning, dystopian novels are sure to please fans of science fiction and thrillers alike.
The Line Between was a Goodreads Choice Awards Best Mystery/Thriller 2019 Semifinalist. It ranked as an Amazon’s #1 Release in Medical Thrillers. Woman’s World voted it as a “Best New Books This Week” and BookRiot included it as one of the “50 Must-Read Crime Novels for Fall and Winter”.
Tosca Lee is an award-winning, New York Times bestselling author. Other novels include: ‘Firstborn,’ ‘The Progeny,’ ‘Havah,’ ‘The Legend of Sheba,’ ‘Iscariot,’ and the ‘Books of Mortals’ series with New York Times bestseller Ted Dekker. Her work has been translated into 17 languages and optioned for TV and film.
You can find Tosca at toscalee.com.
You can find more of Jill Hedgecock’s reviews at www.JillHedgecock.com