Slattery (Liberation, 2008, etc.), coeditor of The New Haven Review literary journal, produces a grim tale that takes place in a disaster-stricken, war-torn United States.
The author presents an apocalyptic America in which storms have devastated cities and driven the country into civil war. A man named Sunny Jim travels up the Susquehanna River with a host of others on a ramshackle ship, in a seemingly hopeless quest to find his wife and son, and encounters horrors along the way. Slattery displays an affection for quoting song lyrics and includes plenty of underdeveloped characters with self-consciously wacky names (Reverend Bauxite, Grendel Jones and Judge Spleen Smiley, among others). Overall, the novel is rather humorless; death hangs over nearly every scene, with graphic descriptions of corpses scattered throughout. The end-of-times setting and ruminations on the power of family relationships are intriguing, but the novel is plagued by an unsatisfying, scattershot execution.
An intriguing but ultimately unfocused novel.