Robinson Crusoe returns from a rigidly hierarchical far-future U.K. to a nightmarish North America in search of his love, Friday, in the second book of Robinson’s (Robinson Crusoe 2244, 2014) series updating the Daniel Defoe classic.
Crusoe must seek out Friday and try to rescue her from the Bone Flayers and their terrible leader, Arga’Zul, whose very reputation terrifies the people he meets and forces him to undertake shifting, uncertain alliances. Crusoe tracks her across a continent beset by weird cultures, old and new, and a full array of mutants, war chieftains, and natives both furtive and belligerent. Despite an ever increasing degree of intrigue and back-stabbing, Crusoe makes his way through a dangerous landscape and grows as a person—ever more confident and strong—throwing himself and his future into the search for his one true soul mate. But Arga’Zul is uber-formidable, and Crusoe must do more than merely survive to save the day. As with the previous installment, characters are entertaining but not complex, while their dialogue works for an adventure story (clichéd/classic lines like “Cru-soe is more man than you’ll ever be” appear throughout.) The light language and snappy pace make this a fun, undemanding read. Robinson works to make the setting both exotic and familiar—the surprises aren’t shocking, but they are engaging and occasionally thrilling. It’s admittedly a little odd to see Defoe’s characters transmogrified as they are, particularly the helpful but enigmatic man Friday turned into a somewhat standard young female love interest. And speaking of transformation, the world of the future often seems to play favorites in terms of what survives, from amusement parks to cultures. The story ends, as is the norm, with a cliffhanger, setting the stage for further installments.
A solid, well-paced sci-fi adventure.