In this dystopian thriller, a woman traverses a barren, treacherous wasteland in search of the only man with answers to her parents’ fate.
Soledad “Sol” Paz is a slave in the new world. Freelance traders took her from her family as a teen and sold her to Ernesto “Flaco” Guzmán. Guzmán’s a self-proclaimed revolutionary, leading an army against the Bullocks, who control much of the gas territory in Texas. Now a republic, Texas seceded from the United States when its natural gas replaced oil as a valuable commodity. The global economic collapse subsequently crushed the prospering republic, allowing for the Bullocks to seize power. With many citizens falling into poverty, Sol may be better off with Guzmán, even if he’s using her ability for his own benefit. She’s a reader, who, after chewing the weedy plant hierba, has heightened perception and can discern whether someone’s lying. But everything changes when she spots Abner Cunningham, her father’s apprentice whom Sol believed freelancers murdered along with her parents. Convinced they likewise survived, Sol escapes her camp with help from her friend Lela and smitten Rafa to track Abner. Their ultimate destination is Dallas, essentially the Bullocks’ capital, but they’ll have to brave demented religious zealots and the Bullocks’ technology, including attack drones, all with the hope that Sol will find her parents alive. The apocalyptic setting supplies a volatile climate, as Sol and company have no idea what to expect in the “unpoliced wastelands.” But Young (Juarez Square and Other Stories, 2015, etc.) intensifies his tale by making the good and bad guys nearly indistinguishable. Sol’s definitely a sympathetic protagonist, but Guzmán isn’t necessarily a villain. Lela, for one, sees him as her savior, rescuing her from the male-dominated boxing circuit, where she had no option but to succumb to men’s loathsome desires. At the same time, the cultist Fundies are unmistakably evil and a genuine threat to Sol, et. al. Dallas, as it turns out, is a place of revelation for Sol, who learns about her parents while fully realizing her potent gift, capable of seeing much more in others than simple lies.
Many readers have seen this dusty, bleak future before, but a poignant journey with a tenacious protagonist exudes freshness.