the Little Red Reviewer

Ration, by Cody T. Luff

Posted on: February 8, 2020

Ration, by Cody T. Luff

published August 2019

where I got it: purchased new



I bought Cody Luff’s debut novel Ration on a lark.  It had been advertised as a horror novel, and I don’t really do horror.


I am however,  that person who loves  negative space, I look for what’s between the lines, what isn’t said.   I like weird, sharp things with edges. I like characters that have no fucks left to give. When you’ve got nothing left to lose, you are at your most dangerous.


Ration is 100% negative space.  And it is weird, and it is sharp.  And I couldn’t put it down. Everywhere I looked in this book, I wanted to know more about it. The kinds of questions I had, when I finished this book, where the kind of questions all authors want to hear.


I better say this up front:  If you are the kind of reader who wants everything explained to you, who wants a lot of exposition and a lot of worldbuilding and backstory, this probably isn’t the book for you. When I say “negative space”, I don’t mean it as a bad thing.  This book is packed with atmosphere, and it reads like I’m the person who cornered a starving animal.


Because you should know what you’re getting yourself into.


Ration is post-post-post apocalyptic, As dystopian as it gets. Generations after the calorie companies of The Wind-up Girl, this is generations after The Children of Men.   You read a post-apocalyptic book, and you’re like “the world has ended, neat!”, but if there is still an ocean, if there is still grass, if there are still plants and animals to eat, the world still has some life left in it. It is not “over”.  Ration takes place after all of that – the ocean is poison, what few plants exist are grown in labs, the population is, well, not. And don’t even get started on animals for food.


There is literally nothing left to lose, what’s left of civilization is at the end of it’s rope.  The world of Ration isn’t plan A, or plan B. Plan Z failed decades ago. So here we are, we’ve lost count of how many things we tried, and that all of them have failed so far.    Grim? Yes. but this doesn’t read like a grim book, it reads like someone screaming and clawing their way to freedom.


The book opens with a bunch of tween-ish girls living in an old apartment building? An orphanage?  An old hotel? Hard to know, and the girls sure don’t know. They just know they’ve been here as long as they can remember.  A few mean old ladies run the place. When you’re hungry, you ask the machine in your room for a Ration. Whatever you ask for, it will give it to you.  There are only so many calories to go around, so rations will cost you in other ways.


Calories are life.  Will you spend them to feed yourself, or to feed someone else?  (did you eat meat or eggs today? That cow ate calories. So did that chicken).  Will you let someone else die, so you can eat?

The opening of Ration reminded me a little of Nicole Kornher-Stace’s Archivist Wasp because of the brutality the girls show to one another,  they will beat each other to near death, but they don’t quite understand what for. A cruel adult pushes their beliefs in a certain direction.   Women have rights, girls do not. If you can grow up to be a Woman, you’ll have rights. Most girls will never make it that far. There is a whole unspoken language in that the word “Woman” is always capitalized, and the word “girl” never is.   More subtle negative space for me to explore.


I don’t care how squicked out (or bewildered) you are after reading the first few chapters, keep reading.


You’ll meet Council Tuttle.  My first reaction to her was “She is a BAMF!!!”.  The elder Tuttle, she laughs in the face of threats.   I mean, this line!!


“A threat, dear Woman, is asking your enemy to trust your credit”


Ok, enough about plot, because if I say more, I am going to wreck it.


This book is thin.  This book is hungry.  Remember, these people have nothing left to lose.


Some of you will be turned off by the thin-ness of this book, by the lack of backstory, the minimal characterization, the thin worldbuilding, by the fact that nothing is explained to you.


I liked the thin-ness, the lack of exposition. It left me swaths of room to imagine my own.


I describe a lot of experiences I have as that I’m walking through a building, and exploring what’s in different rooms.  My mind will often interpret an overwhelming experience as every inch of the walls are covered in artwork and the pattern on the rug is very busy, and  teacups are clinking around a lot. Reading certain poetry and listening to certain pieces of music is like every time I turn a corner I see beautiful flowing artwork on the wall and architectural details I didn’t see the last time I came this way.  This is one of many reasons I like to re-read books, and listen to the same pieces of music over and over again – the room has changed since last time I was here, or maybe it’s me that changed. Every time I visit, I see something new.


Reading Ration,  the space I’m walking through in my mind,  it is threadbare. And dusty. It’s a space for hundreds, and there are only a few people milling about.  I feel like there must be a room somewhere, that has machinery that is maybe humming, or maybe it’s been dead for decades. Schrodinger’s machinery?


What I’m getting at is that I appreciated the negative space.  The thin-ness, the economy of words, it gave me the space I needed so that I could actually explore the world.


Is the characterization thin? Sort of?  And it works perfectly in this weird misty, inviting way.  Do I know for a fact that Glennoc’s anger makes her act masochistically?  Nope. I have no idea. Factually, I know very little about her. but from observing her, I can make this assumption that she’s angry and hungry and hates the world, and that is why she acts so masochistically.  What I love about deceptively thin characterization is that it invites me and encourages me to make up my own stories about the characters. Because I don’t know anything about her, she can be anyone, in my mind I can build up who she might be.  I don’t know why, but I love that.


Glennoc is a horrible creature.   But I couldn’t stop thinking about her.  I want to know who she was before she met Ms. Tuttle.  I want to know how Tory Glennoc became the Woman she became.


Something else I love is stories that aren’t told in chronological order. By all means, tell me the end first, because I will immediately beg you for more, you’ve told me the end, and now I NEED to know what happened prior.


Cody T. Luff? If you write more in this world, I’ll be the first in line to read it. You hooked me by telling me what feels like the end of the story, and now I am ravenously hungry to know how we got here.


6 Responses to "Ration, by Cody T. Luff"

Wow! Man, I love the way you write about what you’ve read!!
This sounds absolutely something I NEED to read.


Thank you!!! 🙂 the book was dark AF, but it was a thrill to read. it’s a joy to write blog posts about books like this!

Liked by 1 person

Well then, I will be the second in line for more stories from this world.
Great review and well deserved – this is a book that has stayed with me – I read it around September time last and I still think about it on a regular basis.
Lynn 😀

Liked by 1 person

I’m mad at myself that I waited so long to read it. Yeah, I don’t think I’m going to forget it anytime soon either!


Sounds interesting, thanks!

Liked by 1 person

it was a page turner!!


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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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