This post-apocalyptic novel sees the villagers of Harpers Ferry running from a marauding army of Christian extremists.
In the not-too-distant future, a technologically enhanced strain of influenza has destroyed the modern world. Called the Great Sickness, this disease ended the warfare between Islamic extremists in the Middle East and their mostly Christian counterparts in America. Once-great cities are now overgrown ruins. People have returned to simple village life, and Jason is a watchman in Harpers Ferry, the West Virginia town. While on duty, he encounters a severely wounded man who warns of an army on horseback, violently demanding loyalty to Jesus Christ. Skeptical, the Harpers Ferry elders send Jason to nearby Leesburg, Va., for proof. There, he witnesses the brutal execution of a forced laborer, which confirms that standing against these men and their old god means death. A man named Pravus leads the Christian Empire (based in New Atlanta) and dreams of conquering the rest of the former U.S. He also wants revenge on the traitorous Mordecai, who abandoned war to peacefully spread Christianity. When Mordecai has a strange vision, he heads west, toward Indianapolis. The people of Harpers Ferry, now led by Jason and a council of talented youths, likewise travel west to outrun the Christian horde. Author Livingston (Marketing in the Round, 2012, etc.) presents the perils of medievallike life with unflagging realism. He threatens his characters with food shortages, wolf attacks, river crossings and egotistical outbursts. But sharp, bracing prose makes the quieter moments just as powerful: “A fever, now apparent in the man’s pale, sweat-streaked face, had wasted his long frame.” Such evocative writing helps the novel’s valuable message of religious moderation shine through: “Forced faith breeds sins, encourages hatred, terror, and violence,” Mordecai tells Pravus. “Your brutal teaching denies the essential virtues of faith, hope, and charity.” Only later, when Livingston dictates the drama instead of revealing it through his excellent dialogue and characterization, does the story slow. Fortunately, a stunning, irresistible cliffhanger erases this minor quibble.
A wondrously executed parable, sure to attract readers from every walk of life.