Concluding a futuristic trilogy, this novel takes aging hero Elliott Eastman out of his post-apocalyptic colony in Idaho and on an often violent quest east through a devastated America in search of other surviving communities.
This is a blood-and-thunder capper (after America 2038, 2013, etc.) to Ryan’s story starring Eastman, a former Army Ranger and reform-minded Colorado politician. In previous books, Eastman saw America—and the planet—convulse through what he calls the “Great Rendering,” a perfect storm of climate-change drought/flooding, wealth inequality, deficient government, food shortages, rapacious Wall Street traders, and civil unrest. It resulted in total anarchy, rioting, catastrophe, and mutant predator animals overtaking humanity, practically to extinction. Eastman managed to persevere with his family and some 3,000 followers in an isolated stronghold of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, in a sustainable community harvesting lake algae to eat (the green stuff, fortunately, possesses restorative powers that keep the now-88-year-old Eastman fairly spry). With years since the last straggler-refugee came into their midst, Eastman ponders whether any other organized outposts of humanity persist. A large expedition led by his most capable son, Elliott the Younger, known as “E,” follows rivers east toward Missouri—and discovers pockets of vicious fiefdoms and psycho holdouts, including formidably armed ex-military men who take slave labor from revenant Native American tribes in the hinterlands. While E, Eastman, and their comrades encounter all kinds of carnivores, human and otherwise, betrayal back home in Idaho takes on a disastrous, familiar shape, and history threatens to repeat itself within North America’s last functioning society. Characters are robustly drawn, and the crosscutting chapters are practically cinematic, as Ryan turns the screws on his gallery of heroes and villains. While concluding the saga, the author avoids a sense of wrapping up everyone in a happily-ever-after package. There is a strong sensation of the beginning of a new world that does not minimize the birth pangs, the scars of the past, or the struggles that lay ahead. With the exception of the final paragraphs, Ryan does not preach on a soapbox about pathologies that laid civilization low; nor does he indulge in the guns, guts, and God populism that often typifies survivalist fiction.
A familiar post-apocalyptic survivalist epic, but it’s told with uncommon power and passion.