"This twisty thriller sows the seeds of an engrossing dystopian saga."– Kirkus Reviews
In a post-apocalyptic world, some stragglers must find out what they are made of in this series opener.
When Brian Rhodes and his cousin Steven Driscoll emerge from their hiding place, it’s been two years since a deadly virus spread across the globe, eradicating most of the inhabitants. Brian and Steven are two of the lucky ones. Their uncle, a high-ranking American government official named Lt. Gen. Albert Driscoll, built them a bunker deep in the South and gave them instructions to reunite with Steven’s sister, Bethany, then journey to an agreed-upon location. In British Columbia, Simon Kalispell is working with a similar plan. The earthy Simon comes from a rich, well-connected family that thought his best bet at survival would be to tough it out in a remote cabin and reunite with the clan later. Each survivor is heading east, where, unbeknown to them, Albert has attempted to create some semblance of a government. But as any good dystopian narrative knows, where there’s weakness, there’s division. While Albert and his men try to restore peace, others believe they require increased militarization to mobilize against the outside world, full of haphazard gangs, cannibals, and sadists struggling to survive. These are the conditions Brian, Steven, and Simon meet as they struggle to make it across country, and their survival depends on making the right choices. Zenner (Whiskey Devils, 2016, etc.) skillfully shows how desperate conditions can force good people to do bad things, and bad people to do even worse deeds. But while Brian, Steven, and Simon are all richly shaded, the secondary characters are not as fully developed. Along the way, Brian collects Bethany and a female friend. The women are vague in characterization (tough and capable in one moment; weepy or shy the next), which leaves their subsequent romantic arcs seeming obligatory and one-dimensional. This kind of indistinct worldbuilding plagues an otherwise promising novel about the limits of humanity in trying times. With more books planned for the series, this may yet be corrected.
This twisty thriller sows the seeds of an engrossing dystopian saga.
New Jersey bartender and author Zenner combines corporate deceit, futuristic technology, and sleep science into a rousing debut.
Heartbroken from the recent loss of his beloved wife, Emily, Baltimore bartender Ben Walker jumps at any chance to participate in the kinds of sleep studies that have helped keep him financially afloat for years. Bored with his life, he frequently finds himself “drinking to oblivion”—a routine interrupted by a tip from a dream scientist about a lucrative, revolutionary project for which he believes Ben, who in past tests has exhibited extraordinary subconscious “control and vividness,” would be perfect. This new lucid-dream sleep study is based in the Hamptons and has been commissioned by eccentric multimillionaire Dr. Timothy Kalispell. The study utilizes a machine nicknamed “Lucy” (for Lucid Transmitter), which reads and records images created during the sleep cycle. Initially, Ben exhibits promising results while doctors view his subconscious “sleep art” imagery as he flies through his mind’s dreamscapes. The project is soon taken on the road to Paris and Rome to incorporate dreams dreamt after seeing art masterpieces, yet even after some overdue spicy romance with beautiful stranger Sophia, things begin to spiral downward. Ben becomes plagued with migraine headaches as Dr. Kalispell unveils his newest technology, the “Vitruvian Machine,” capable of bringing dreamed images to life. Of course, big-business ethics and profit lie behind the grand design, and once the team enlists Ben as a full-time employee, his sketchy dreams of a place called Drapery Falls put him in grave danger. When the lines between what is dreamed and what is real begin to blur, the medical team behind the project shows its contemptible colors. Zenner crafts a well-paced thriller powered by a lively, gutsy protagonist and durable supporting characters nefarious and romantic. Kalispell is a formidable villain, yet Zenner is cleverly careful not to reveal his true nature until the plot is well underway. Fans of reality-bending sci-fi medical thrillers will find much to savor in this futuristic thrill ride with a bloody denouement.
A creative, sharply drawn thriller anchored by sturdy prose and a memorable hero.