Robinson’s debut novel reimagines Defoe’s classic story, with plucky teenage Robinson Crusoe in a dystopian future 200 years from now.
Sometime in the near future, humanity nearly destroys itself, leaving a ruined world. Hundreds of years later, civilization is rebuilt as an oppressive society of haves and have-nots, where a new group of wealthy and powerful families—called Tiers—have arisen. Into this dog-eat-dog, class-based culture is born young Robinson Crusoe, whose father is Tier of Transportation. His lifelong wish for adventure is answered when political conflict between Tiers wipes out his family and he’s forced to flee for his life. His midnight journey takes an even more frightening turn when he’s shipwrecked on the forbidden shores of America, a vast, terrifying wasteland. Though at first it seems he cannot possibly survive, Robinson employs ingenuity and a considerable amount of luck to keep alive in the ruins of what was once Washington, D.C., now haunted by cannibals, savages and deadly mutations called Renders. As he struggles to live from day to day, he’s joined in his efforts by his own “Girl Friday” —in this case, a young girl. Risky romance, constant danger and a great degree of personal growth are central to the narrative, as Robinson finds he must uncover a great secret from the past that could spell salvation or final destruction to the world. He must choose whether or not he wishes to rise beyond mere survival to become a true hero. The characters are entertaining but lightweight, and their dialogue is serviceable: “I don’t hate you, boy,” a man tells Robinson. “Only what you’re destined to become.” The plot is understandably derivative, combining Defoe’s original with the general template of dystopian YA sci-fi in the 21st century. Nevertheless, the text is breezy and engaging, and the pace and color make the familiarity forgivable. Typographical errors are somewhat frequent, but the tale, first in a planned series, is comfortably, competently told.
Reliable sci-fi entertainment that breaks little new ground.