Sands Rising

The California Ballot Killings Book I

Fiction - Dystopia
324 Pages
Reviewed on 10/02/2019
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite

Sands Rising is a work of thrilling dystopian fiction penned by author H. M. Wilhelmborn and forms the first book in The California Ballot Killings series. Recommended for mature audiences due to its theme, but without graphic content, this exciting and dramatic tale centers on the life and work of Janet Whitaker Virdis, a mother of four whose family and own life hang in balance after weather-related disasters have destroyed large parts of southern California. Working from San Diego, Janet’s mission was to work with a political party that promised to lift California out of its climate crisis, but when the desertification of the land threatens the life of her own children, Janet’s tale becomes less than altruistic.

Part climate fiction, part intense family drama, the pairing of these two genres makes for fantastic reading, with a solid concept and plenty of emotional journeys to follow. Author H. M. Wilhelmborn sets the scene well amid the new and emerging power structures of a California that is returning to the desert in a global crisis where nothing and no one is safe from the ravages of climate change. The attention to detail in Janet's development is stellar, considering every facet of her high-pressure career and family commitments, but also her individual view beyond those roles. This makes her a highly relatable character and offers an on-the-ground perspective from which the story is told, giving the drama high stakes as it moves to its proposed grisly conclusion. Overall, Sands Rising is a highly recommended read as an intelligent dystopian story for the modern age.

Sefina Hawke

Sands Rising (The California Ballot Killings Book I) by H. M. Wilhelmborn is a dystopian fiction novel that would appeal most to a diverse audience of mature young adults and adults who do not mind not descriptive violence and adult situations and a discussion of the death penalty. Janet Whitaker Virdis had a successful life, a husband, four children, and a well-paying job. Yet, her life was forever changed when the long drought began and the California Water Party (CWP) came to power. She soon found luxury items like coffee, pecans, and vanilla were banned due to the amount of water they took to grow, schools were closed due to dangerous weather conditions, and then the mysterious disease known as 'the hatred' began to kill teenage boys.

Sands Rising (The California Ballot Killings Book I) by H. M. Wilhelmborn is unique in the dystopian genre. I personally really liked how the author wrote the book with Janet Whitaker Virdis telling the story of her life as she faces the fact that she may be executed for the crime of conspiracy to steal water. The way that Janet looked back over her life, with the belief that her life may be about to end, made the book very emotionally moving. Even the positive parts like one of her sons selling peanut butter and jelly sandwich strips at school became bittersweet. While the book did have its sad and light moments, I found myself enjoying the drama and the mystery of how Janet went from success to pending execution.

Cheryl E. Rodriguez

Choose this day, who will you serve? H. M. Wilhelmborn reveals the consequences of choice in Sands Rising. Janet knows she did it to herself; she made the choice, now she must live with the consequences of her decision. Living in San Diego, Janet marries, has four children, and a job she enjoys. Janet believes she has the makings of a happily ever after life. However, happiness soon becomes a rare commodity for Janet. Everything changes as a result of the ongoing drought. Sand storms, inflated cost of food, water rationing, and strict government control suck the life out of those living in the Dust Belt. But, nothing compares to the tragic loss of all the young boys dying from the disease known as “The Hatred.” Janet helped the California Water Party win power over the citizens of California. Now she is paying the price. Janet loses everything. Alone, sitting in her jail cell, Janet tells her story.

H. M. Wilhelmborn pens a story within a story in the first book of The California Ballot Killings. Sands Rising is written in the first person and the main character, Janet Virdis, narrates the story. As Janet looks back, she remembers both the good and the bad. Her narration is a dramatic personal journey through time. Although the conflict of man versus nature is obvious, the true conflict lies within; the heroine becomes a victim of her own choices. Janet’s character evolves through the tragedy; the devastation not only changes her way of life but her view of life, causing her to take a long hard look at herself. The antagonist, of course, is the drought, but the hidden wicked force propelling the drought is the lust for power. Evil rises within the sands in the form of men who say the right thing, who promote “the Right Path,” yet live a life contrary to their mantra. Manipulation and political smoke screens mask the intentions of the villainous horde.

The characterization contains both deep and shallow characters. Some of the characters have wit, adding a touch of humor, while with others you want to jump into the page and strangle them, yet each one is necessary for the telling of the story. Wilhelmborn builds his dystopian story on the politics of global warming, climate changes, and immigration, portraying that “life is nothing but a collision of outcomes, results, and effects, and we live at their intersection.” Sands Rising makes you stop and wonder who really is in control.

Rabia Tanveer

Sands Rising is the first book in the California Ballot Killings series by H. M. Wilhelmborn. This is the story of a mother who enjoyed success in her life, but when fate decided to test her, she knew that she should not give up. Janet Whitaker Virdis is a New Yorker who moved to San Diego and decided that this was the place to make her home. Happily married with four beautiful children, she has a job at a law firm where she enjoys professional success and she is happy with life. However, the California drought is at its worst and, to make matters worse, there is a disease that affects only teenage boys. The disease has no cure and as a mother of three boys, she is trying to make sense of what is happening and why it is happening to her family in particular. Was there something that she could have done to prevent these things? Is there something she can do to save her boys?

This is a dramatic story, one that had me emotionally invested and becoming a part of the story. I was happy and sad along with Janet; I felt her pain and her devastation as she tried to make sense of what was happening around her. The story itself is very interesting. I enjoyed how the author addressed serious issues such as climate change and how it can affect our lives in the most incredible ways. The mystery disease had me intrigued. I wanted to know more about it, why did it react this way and if there was going to be a cure for it. The author allowed us to get invested in the story, gave us the opportunity to get up close and personal with the characters. Needless to say, this is a brilliant, must-read novel if you enjoy a gritty, raw, emotional ride that leaves you feeling fulfilled at the end.

Samantha Gregory

Sands Rising: The California Ballot Killings Book I by H. M. Wilhelmborn is the story of a woman called Janet, who lives in a vastly changing world. Across the span of a few decades, she goes from working at a law firm to married with three boys. Unfortunately, the world is facing a horrific drought and a new disease is spreading, one that can kill teenage boys. Janet faces many awful situations and losses, leading to her facing her own execution. The book is a reflection of her life. There are a lot of little details that make the story, including Janet remembering her life before everything went wrong. There is a lot going on and she is a kind of everywoman character who finds herself caught in the middle because of her job. I liked her character.

H. M. Wilhelmborn has written an interesting and engaging story in Sands Rising: The California Ballot Killings Book 1. The character of Janet was well written and she has to deal with a lot of tragedy in her life. There is a mix of political thriller and apocalyptic elements in the plot. I think it was effective because we are facing severe changes to the planet, so it could be a possibility. I like that it was written from Janet's perspective. She is a tough woman and a mother who must fight for what is hers. I think Sands Rising will do well on the market and I would recommend it.