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Another Isaac Asimov Presents (see Barnes, above, and Turtledove, below). This one's a brutal and overwrought post-nuclear-holocaust yarn, with the emphasis on the brutal. Postnuclear US is a frontier-type place of farms and small towns; a breed of mindless humans are kept as cattle. Out West, a character named Lathan is leading a bloody rebellion against the weak central government. So the government starts robbing the farmers of their produce in order to supply the army fighting Lathan. The farmers resist. Young Howie Ryder's parents are sadistically murdered by the government's Colonel Jacob; in retaliation, Howie kidnaps Jacob, mutilates him and leaves him barely alive. Later, Howie falls in with the treacherous Pardo (he'll sell anything to anybody, and betray both sides, to make a profit). So goes Howie's nomadic life: brutal incidents, narrow escapes, and rare pleasant interludes. Still in store for poor Howie are: a last, torture-filled encounter with Jacob; the unrequited love of a traumatized young woman; and the final shattering of Howie's dreams of a different and better future. Down, down, heavy, heavy: Barrett works very hard to depress and horrify--but in the absence of nuclear reminders (radiation, mutants, climatic changes, whatever), few readers will make the emotional connection to nuclear war. Weighs a ton--and it doesn't do the job.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1987
Publisher: Congdon & Weed/Contemporary