The Ballad of Before

A Love Story

Fiction - Dystopia
412 Pages
Reviewed on 06/30/2022
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

Dana Stewart Quinney grew up in Ketchum, Idaho, and learned to flyfish, ride, and shoot. Fascinated by the plants and animals of the mountains, she became an outdoor biologist, working as a conservationist in the Idaho high desert with special emphasis on small mammals and rare plants, and also teaching college students on field study expeditions to some of the wild places of the world. In 2011, she was the USA Army National Guard Conservationist of the Year. She has also been a scientific illustrator, a web designer, a magazine editor, a flyfishing guide, a golf-cart mechanic, a dog trainer, and a few other oddities.

To Dana, everything is a story: why her grandpa shot a Hash Knife man in 1909 and what happens on the day of the spiders, how fireflies behave in the rainforest, how to bottle-raise baby pack rats, and what happened after the Collies ate the cement. The author of many scientific publications, the young adult Scavenger Series, the Little Demon Creek Series, the dystopian romance The Ballad of Before, and her award-winning memoir Wildflower Girl, she lives in Idaho with her husband and Shelties.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite

The Ballad of Before: A Love Story by Dana Stewart Quinney is a dystopian romance that follows the lives of three interconnected individuals after the collapse of civilization. The population has tapered off to a near dribble of survivors, the non-survivors having succumbed at the End to radioactive fallout, injury, and plague. Those who did not die from the aforementioned were further culled through a violent, twisted street form of natural selection in a newly anarchistic dog-eat-dog world. Gangs formed, be it for power, protection, or even zealotry. Rachel, a nurse before the End, continues her medical work in the shadows despite the danger, even from those she means to help. There is no trust. Rachel saves Teddy and finds something that resembles companionship. Rachel is also connected to a gang captain—Cap—in a transactional relationship where one really does need the other, for the moment. Teddy, Rachel, and Cap slowly build trust. Cap wants physical perfection and to expand his empire. Teddy wants Rachel. And Rachel? Rachel wants out.

The Ballad of Before is an exceptionally well-written book with engaging and fully developed characters, and with a desolate, ravaged world built in a southern California landscape that has seen its former glory crumble. Dana Stewart Quinney has thoroughly woven the people, the streets, the sanctuaries, the hierarchies, the gangs both Inside and Outside, and the new dystopian social order into a series of subplots that stretch out like Thrombophlebitis. Some of the ancillary characters could probably lead a spin-off of their own. Celia, who loves Cap so much, is one of his former 'ladies' and defacto chief consort; her full backstory would be interesting to explore. The evolution of Teddy is impressive and, in my mind, he blossoms into this genius, streetwise Timothée Chalamet-esque Adonis. I am aware that I'm mish-mashing weird people here but that's indicative of Quinney's unique character craftsmanship. Dystopian novels are a dime a dozen right now and it's a minefield trying to find ones that are worth reading. The Ballad of Before is. Also, bonus points for not having zombies. Very highly recommended.