The Only Ones

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About the Author
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.
Anna North is the author of three novels: Outlawed, America Pacifica, and The Life and Death of Sophie Stark. Published in 2021, Outlawed was a New York Times bestseller and Reese's Book Club and Belletrist pick. In addition to fiction writing, North is also a senior correspondent at Vox, covering American work and family life. North grew up in Los Angeles, graduated from the Iowa Writers' Workshop in 2009, and now lives in Brooklyn.

  • 10 Favorite Books of the Year (2015) --O, The Oprah Magazine
  • Best science fiction and fantasy books of 2015 --The Washington Post
  • One of the most anticipated books of 2015 --Dazed & Confused, BuzzFeed

"Breathtaking. [Dibbell has] delivered a debut novel on par with some of the best speculative fiction of the past 30 years; The Only Ones deserves to be shelved alongside Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, Nalo Hopkinson's Brown Girl in the Ring, and P. D. James' The Children of Men. It's that good, and that important, and that heartbreakingly beautiful."

--Jason Heller, NPR

"Fascinating... A heart-piercing tale of love, desire and acceptance. Readers will be mesmerized by Dibbell's staccato prose as much as they are by the harrowing circumstances this mother and child must endure."

--Nancy Hightower, Washington Post

"Dibbell's major accomplishment (besides publishing her first novel just shy of 70) is her narrator, Inez, blessed and cursed with immunity in a society ravaged by plagues. Inez's voice--a fragmented vernacular that is wise, tough and humane--elevates this dystopian novel..."

--O, The Oprah Magazine

''Set in New York City in the near future, The Only Ones calibrates a new normal based on surging of distrust. A pandemic has swept the globe, killing millions, and like aftershocks, pathogens continue to wreak havoc. Mothers hide their children in public toilets to avoid quarantines. People run not only from viruses but also from vaccination drives. A neighbor is someone who could report you for not following public-health protocols... an often-painful exploration of experimental reproduction and what makes a mother and child belong to each other."

--Jane Yong Kim, Bookforum

"A fascinating and daring debut, this novel takes place in a post-pandemic world as a woman named Inez volunteers as a test subject to make a living. When this experimental genetic work backfires, Inez is stuck responsible for a scientific breakthrough in the form of a baby girl named Ani. Peppered with influence from years of music writing, this is a punk-rock science fiction story you won't want to miss."


"A heartbreaking page-turner with a first person narrative voice that hooked me right away and wouldn't let go... This is literature first, sci-fi second. Think Orwell's 1984. Or maybe Huxley's Brave New World."

--Addicted to Noise

"When you've seen one apocalypse, you've seen them all: there's some real bad news, plus enough survivors left to tell the tale. What distinguishes a post-apocalyptic story, then, is who is doing the telling, and how. In a word, voice. In this regard, Carola Dibbell's The Only One shines."

--Jenna Leigh Evans, Electric Literature

"Dibbell may have created the most important post-apocalyptic novel since McCarthy's The Road--and one equally as harrowing, too."

--Jay Slayton-Joslin, Cultured Vultures

"Carola Dibbell is probably best known for her work as a music critic, but it's her sci-fi debut The Only Ones that really rocks."

--Refinery 29

"One of the most original mother-daughter stories of recent memory."

--Barnes & Noble Review

"What's particularly stunning about [The Only Ones], however, is Dibbell's use of language, and how she creates one of the most memorable narrators I've encountered in a long while."

--Vol. 1 Brooklyn

"A well-known rock critic, Dibbell infuses her debut novel with the stylistic grace of a seasoned writer."

--Time Out New York

"Dibbell's debut novel chillingly imagines the world in the wake of a global pandemic in the latter part of the 21st century. The book illuminates present-day paranoias, but it is further elevated by Dibbell's trenchant attention to the corrosive nature of social and economic inequality."

--Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Dibbell's achievements here are many... With its keen eye for the details of things that have never existed, and beautifully maintained vernacular tone, Dibbell is both very tender and very hardened; it deals in the world with a tough mindedness that makes Inez a great heroine."

--Iman Lababedi, Rock NYC

"On the other side of Aldous Huxley's brave new world is Carola Dibbell's braver one, all the more unsettling (and maybe even more profound) for being not five hundred years from now but five minutes, in a time at once beyond our control and too immediate to escape. Brilliantly conceived, passionately defiant, deeply felt, The Only Ones introduces--in the form of central character Inez Fardo--one of the most memorable and compelling first-person voices in recent American fiction."

--Steve Erickson, author of Rubicon Beach, Zeroville, and Shadowbahn

"A bracing, tough minded, farsighted novel about bravery and endurance, motherhood and the way life goes on even after the world ends. Every sentence pierces."

--Kelly Link, author of Stranger Things Happen, Magic for Beginners, and Pretty Monsters

"This is an enthralling journey through a near future, plague-filled landscape, presented with such gritty clarity and such a darkly humorous eye for detail that it feels completely real. Inez's deadpan account of her heroic struggle to keep her daughter alive in the ruins of Brooklyn and Queens--a devastated but curiously familiar world, filled with maddening school bureaucracies and public transport that never comes--becomes a fantastic portrait of what it is to raise a child."

--Mary Harron, writer and director of I Shot Andy Warhol, American Psycho, The Notorious Bettie Page

"Dibbell tells this story with intensity and color, through a voice that is as shattered and alive as the world she has created, exploring universal themes of sacrifice, love, and the fragile yet persistent will to survive. At times, The Only Ones feels large, small, sweeping and intimate, scary and full of hope. Dense and vivid, smart and thought-provoking."

--Charles Yu, author of How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe and Interior Chinatown

"Anyone who thinks dystopian fiction is a lemon with no juice left needs to read The Only Ones to get that tingle back in the taste buds... How can a writer this good have waited so long for her due? Carola Dibbell's marvelous narrative has pace, emotional range, plenty of humor--some bitter, some sweet--and one of the most harshly enthralling narrators in fiction since Huckleberry Finn."

--Adam Mars-Jones, author of Box Hill, Batlava Lake, and Pilcrow