NEW WILDERNESS by Brian S. Matthews

NEW WILDERNESS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Nature overwhelms mankind in this engrossing eco-nightmare.

One day in the near future, long-suffering animals turn on their human oppressors. Bears and cougars run amok; man-eating rats pour out of the sewers; wasps and ants swarm the slow-of-foot; an “elite corps” of raccoons targets infants in the crib and pets everywhere leap for their masters’ throats. This doomsday scenario is too cute to be truly alarming–“[t]he squirrel growled, then bit a chunk out of Brad’s nose with teeth designed to crush walnuts”–but in this first volume of a planned trilogy, Matthews constructs a vividly imagined saga of post-apocalyptic civilization-building. Ten years later, humanity struggles to maintain isolated settlements, bartering for vital scraps of technology salvaged from the ruins, including Compton Pit, an underground complex in British Columbia powered by renewables and defended by animal-repelling ultrasonic noise generators. The Pit is led by solar-energy whiz Noah; outwardly-tough-but-inwardly-fragile security head Darcy; one-armed chief hunter Toffee, more feral than the beasts he kills; and the visionary Boss, who takes them to Vancouver–now a stronghold of crazed orca-worshippers–to find a trove of photovoltaic cells. Their culture is a hard-scrabble inversion of the current model of pampered material excess, as they scrimp for scarce food, clothing and medicines, carefully ration electricity and water and scour the Pacific Northwest for irreplaceable truck parts and electronics components, ever vigilant of the ceaseless attacks of animals and human raiders. Though the bloated narrative affords the characters too much time to ruminate, the interplay of gritty survivalism and rapid-fire action yields a page-turner, throughout which the author has also deftly woven themes of environmentalism and conservation.

An entertaining, well-realized portrait of life at the bottom of the food chain.

Pub Date: Oct. 24th, 2005
ISBN: 81-88811-21-1
Program: Kirkus Indie
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