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.