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The Only Ones

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  1,187 ratings  ·  219 reviews
Inez wanders a post-pandemic world, strangely immune to disease, making her living by volunteering as a test subject. She is hired to provide genetic material to a grief-stricken, affluent mother, who lost all four of her daughters within four short weeks. This experimental genetic work is policed by a hazy network of governmental ethics committees, and threatened by the K ...more
Paperback, 356 pages
Published March 10th 2015 by Two Dollar Radio (first published February 23rd 2015)
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Average rating 3.59  · 
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This is a bleak, dark story of a post pandemic world, with a tragic atmosphere yet also of hope…. Very intriguing read.

A story of a girl – the young mother - and her daughter struggling to survive in the ruins of Brooklyn and Queens.
Kind of reminds me of The Road, but then different.

The story is told by a young girl, Inez, who wanders a post pandemic world that gets hit by several types of flu, every time causing death, chaos, disorder, burning down city parts, disinfecting…. She is strangely
Althea Ann
Nov 19, 2015 rated it liked it
'The Only Ones' started off 5-star strong.
I loved the character of Inez - her voice was incredibly well-developed and believable. She's an ultimately pragmatic individual, horribly uneducated, with a limit of vision that restricts her scope and her ability to understand things in a terrifying way. However, within her own sphere she is a tough, capable survivor. I absolutely loved the combination of her slangy Queens vocabulary and the half-understood medical argot which she has picked up throug
Jun 12, 2015 rated it it was ok
I suppose Ms. Dibbell may have an audience out there somewhere for this dystopian post-pandemic cautionary tale. Sadly, the main character/narrator Inez's erratic speech (one minute conversant in words like 'mitochondria' and 'in vitro fertilization', the next unable to discern the difference between 'should of' and 'should have' (for instance)) was just too jarring to ignore. The story was okay; the narrative much less so. ...more
Read 1/28/15 - 2/2/15
4 Stars - Strongly recommended to fans of unique voices, dystopian pandy's, and unexpected motherhood
Pages: 354
Publisher: Two Dollar Radio
Releases: March 2015

In the near future, wave after wave of infections and viruses have greatly reduced the world's population. Many of those who survive are rendered incapable of having children on their own and require the services of "Donors" and "Hosts" - women who allow their eggs to be harvested or agree to become surrogate mothers fo
Mar 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This has taken my top spot for novel of the year. This is dystopic fiction, but unlike any you've ever read.

I found myself constantly drawing comparisons to Cormac McCarthy's 'The Road' (one of my all-time favorite novels), because they share the common thread of parenthood and sacrifice in a dystopic world, the lengths that one will go to protect the ones they love and too often the futility of it all. But aside from those parallels, these are completely different novels. 'The Road' revolves a
Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

The jacket copy for Carola Dibbell's The Only Ones claims that this book proves that there's still original things to be done in the post-apocalyptic genre; and damned if that didn't turn out to be spectacularly true, although I suppose we should expect no less from the always excellent Two Dollar Radio. A
Linda Robinson
Mar 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Post-multiple-pandemic world, (how can you not devour a book with a pandemic called slatewiper?) with the remaining population wearing nylon sheets, masks; doused regularly with anti-plague spray whose origins are dicey and which might kill you outright itself. People steal children, grief-stricken with loss. Sweeps into quarantine are arbitrary and, if you live through it, at least you get some food and a place to sleep in relative safety. There are vaccines around which also might kill you out ...more
May 25, 2015 rated it did not like it
I really wanted to give this a 2 just based on the premise but honestly...I just didn't like it. It was a struggle to finish and when I did get done, I wasn't sure what the point was to the whole story. Meh. ...more
Muse Monthly
Apr 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I was not really prepared for how beautiful The Only Ones was.

The story begins with Inez (or simply "I", which is a poetic choice for a first-person narrative), a young woman of little education but high wit and what we call 'street smarts', stepping off a bus in New Jersey, but not New Jersey as we know it. This is a near-future America that has been ravaged by plague and virus. Diseases that readers might recognize - tuberculosis and the flu, for example - as well as what's referred to as The
Aug 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is a near future dystopia with a focus on pandemics and (really only hints of) climate change. It's written in a difficult narrative style, but well worth reading. Definitely more on the side of being "message fiction," so there are plenty of negative reviews here on goodreads because of a disagreement with the message. I personally thought the book had a lot of really excellent things to say about empathy, humanity, motherhood, cloning, and disease. ...more
Holly Booms Walsh
First - if you can get this in audio - do it. The narration by Sasha Dunbrooke takes a good book and elevates it to a GREAT book. This book is told in first person, in a sort of dialect in which the grammar is not always correct, and Dunbrooke keeps our protagonist (Inez, or "I") from sounding stupid, and layers in some of the best emotional performances I've ever heard in an audiobook narration. Through her voice, we know that Inez is brave, not foolhardy; uneducated but not stupid; savvy if no ...more
Kelly Spoer
Jan 12, 2022 rated it really liked it
Set in the "future"
Not gonna lie. It was hard to read at first because the world was a little #toosoon. Even though this was published in 2015.

But it was worth pushing through my pandemic issues to finish it.
Reviews May Vary
Feb 28, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: readharder2018
In this world of pandemics, egg doners, and surrogate mothers, we meet Inez, who has grown up earning money with her body. When a buyer leaves her with an expected child, her maternal instincts kick in and she becomes super boring... no. But, it's true that I didn't care as much about the motherhood part.

I loved Inez's voice as a world-weary, no-nonsense child, to a newly anxious mother, to a reflective woman looking into the future.

File this under: no matter what you do for your kids, they ca
C.L. Phillips
May 15, 2016 rated it did not like it
I only made it to page 70. And that was a chore. The premise of the book is ok, but the writing is terrible. Nearly every sentence has a tense shift from present to past, or vice versa, as if the narrator has no idea whether this story is happening now or sometime in her past. And the dialogue tags..."he goes" is not a replacement for "he says." I could go on but it would just be mean. Don't read this. Just don't. I picked it up because the back cover says it should be "shelved alongside Margare ...more
Sadie McGuire
Oct 30, 2022 rated it really liked it
Wish you could give half stars on Good Reads because this hovers between a 3 and 4 for me and 3.5 is really more accurate! So funny to read about a world desecrated by a pandemic that was written in 2015, with no way of foreseeing 2020, obvi. And this is a way more grim world but as with all good sci fi, there are great allegories and parallels to modern life, making dystopia more real than fantasy.

What I really liked about this book is that even when society crumbles, when we rebuild it ends up
Dec 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
A brilliant, bizarre, and heart-breaking look at what it means to be a "mother". In a future dystopian America - complete with monthly pandemics and religious fanatics - Inez agrees to help a woman in exchange for money and somehow ends up the unwitting guardian of a baby girl. The circumstances behind the girl's conception and birth are considered crimes against nature and Inez is forced to lie, cheat, and steal in order to keep their secret all while trying to give Ani the best kind of life sh ...more
Book Riot Community
Anything from Two Dollar Radio goes on my insta-read list; they put out thought-provoking work that has an edge so sharp, you could cut yourself if you weren’t careful. The Only Ones follows Inez through a post-pandemic world. She makes a living for herself as a test subject, thanks to her rare immunity. One of the procedures involves a highly controversial method of using the genetic material of the immune to create children for those who had lost theirs to disease; when the grieving mother bac ...more
Charlotte Carpenter
Jan 28, 2020 rated it liked it
It took me a long time to get used to Dibbell's "staccato prose" but once I did, I breezed through this story. Her rendering of NYC as a blighted, post-apocalyptic disaster zone where the dictates of capitalist bureaucracy persist despite the collapse of virtually every social system struck me as quite realistic. Like I can see that for u, America! ...more
Loved this, reviewing it for Seattle Review of Books. <3 <3 <3
Mar 02, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dystopia
So many themes, all handled beautifully via a protagonist with a unique voice. While reading this, I kept thinking of Riddley Walker, only to find out afterwards that this was a book the author mentions as part of her research. Pandemics, motherhood, poverty, learning disabilities, grief, identity, and more. It was also a treat to read a post-apocalyptic novel in which the crazy and violent religious fundamentalists were in the periphery.

The portrayal of low-income single motherhood was especial
Sonia Crites
Mar 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is beautifully heartbreaking. The main character Inez will definitely capture your heart. Her drive to live and her overall spirit are endearing. The writing is strong and the story is engaging. I was sad to finish it.
Holly Bryant-Simpson
Probably 4 stars for the story, but Sasha Dunbrooke's narration brought it up to a 5.

Carola Dibbell's dystopian world-building is exquisite. Often when I read dystopia, I'm not quite clear how we ended up with this world. Or, it seems unbelievable. The post-pandemic near-future world we find Inez in was rather believe to me. This is a story of motherhood and survival and it's lovely and heartbreaking.

Looking through some of the other reviews, I'm extra glad I went with the audiobook. Sasha Dunb
Apr 06, 2022 rated it liked it
Wavering between 3 and 4 stars. First third is a little confusing and gives fan fiction vibes, but once you figure out what the author is trying to do in terms of style, themes, etc., things fall into place and become quite compelling.
Nov 24, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
This is an unusual dystopian read. About half-way through it becomes a story of day to day motherhood, which is not usually my thing, but I enjoyed the voice of the protagonist and was invested and wanted to know how things played out.

If covid is a trigger for you, this book should be a hard pass. It was published in 2015 but some of it is uncanny (a never-ending pandemic with different new strains, surprise when children show up at school without masks, etc.)
Apr 07, 2015 rated it it was ok
Right on the back cover of this novel, there is a bold-faced comparison to “Brave New World” which is probably where I got the wrong idea. I know I shouldn’t get my hopes up when books claim to be like other books, but there’s not much I love more than classic speculative fiction so I took the bait. Unfortunately, I found the major elements of my beloved sci-fi to be lacking in this novel. The world-building was sparse, the overall vision of society felt disjointed and confusing, and I was not s ...more
Gripping and supple. In a post-pandemic world (or, really, a world where the new normal is constantly pandemic), a young woman named Inez is brutally familiar with selling her body: she was a child prostitute, and now she's a frequent medical test subject. It's a bleak life, subject to forces both maddeningly bureaucratic and frighteningly lawless, but Inez is immune to every and any disease that can be thrown at her, so surviving is what she's good at. She falls in with some fringe reproductive ...more
Kira Flowerchild
Slow and dull. Slow and dull. Slow and dull.

Now you know what it was like to read this book. Normally I give a book one chapter or approximately 30 pages and if it doesn't grab my interest by then, I put it down. There were a lot of things I didn't like about this book but there was enough I was curious about that I decided to continue. About halfway through I was ready to throw it across the room but I didn't, since it is a library book. I'll admit I even skipped to the end to see if it was wor
Amy Gentry
Jan 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
It's been a while since I actually sobbed at the ending of a book, but you try reading two SF masterpieces about the brutality of motherhood back-to-back (The Need by Helen Phillips) with a 2-year-old sleeping in the next room and see how you fare.

I bought The Only Ones on a whim based on the gorgeous cover and Kelly Link blurb, and then it sat on my shelf for four years, because science fiction isn't my forte. When I finally got to it, I did find the dystopian-speak daunting at first (lots of c
Jess Lessa
Sep 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015, post-pandemic
The Only Ones gets one of my rare 5 star ratings. The book is set in a post-pandemic world with ongoing, widespread disease. Within this world, we follow Inez Fardo, who is what they call a "hardy" because she is immune to disease. She winds up selling biological matter to make "hardy" clones for a mother who has lost all of her children. The mother backs out last minute and Inez is left to raise her own clone in this chaotic, disease-ridden and panic stricken world.

At first I wondered if I was
Nov 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: scribd, audio, 2016
I didn't think I'd like this book at first. I picked it off one of those same lists of "good books you're probably not aware of." But the beginning was a bit off-putting and odd. I'm glad I stayed with it, though.

It's a story about a dystopian future where deadly epidemics are largely out of control, and millions of people have died. The main character is one of the rare hardy people. The various hardy strains have natural immunity from most, if not all, the diseases. Since the plagues have als
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Goodreads Librari...: add cover to newly added audio edition of book 2 12 Aug 17, 2015 07:41AM  

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Carola Dibbell is a highly regarded rock critic whose fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, Paris Review, Fence, and Black Clock. Writing about books as well as music, Dibbell was a Village Voice contributor for many years. The Only Ones is her debut novel.

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“I wish I didn’t see how her face looks when she said, “So I am a clone.” “There’s a lot of things you can call it,” I told her. “You can call it what you want. I prefer human being.” 1 likes
“They let us grow potatoes in the yard. Which I enjoyed. Ani enjoyed it too. The way you grow potatoes, you put what they call the eye of the potatoes in the ground, and it makes single Donor viables, which are gene for gene the living replica of the potato. And which was ethical, because it was Nature, and because they are plants.” 0 likes
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