In Davis’ debut novel, a troubled Navajo drifter finds himself caught in the middle of a power struggle among dangerous factions as he traverses an apocalyptic landscape.
In a futuristic society hailed as the New Age of Discovery, in which humanity’s most pressing problems seem to have been resolved and people have been encouraged by the overweening Federation to relocate from rural areas to self-contained metropolises, called “hubs,” Harley Nearwater is an outlier well able to defend himself with a pulse blaster. With a traumatic past and anti-social disposition, Harley prefers life as a loner on the outskirts of society, refusing to move to a hub or accept a neural implant called a “linktag” that would enable him to communicate mentally on the “Link” and exist virtually. Harley is joined in his contempt for life in the hubs by the nostalgic pilgrims, the more radical neands, and the Wrynds—drug-addled cannibals who roam the rural areas. When he encounters a former legionnaire whose linktag has been forcibly removed by a strange and seemingly mythic being called the Gray Walker, Harley is intrigued by her dying words: “The end is coming.” After killing the Wrynd King Orrin’s new queen in a violent clash, Harley, now a marked man, travels to the Utah Hub to report the story of the missing legionnaire to the marshal, Jodi Tempest, and to ask a few questions himself. The marshal commissions him to track down the Gray Walker, but back in the wilds, increasingly supernatural encounters have Harley wondering about the legionnaire’s prophetic last words, even as he begins to question the role of the Wrynds and the ulterior motives of the Federation. In this sometimes-confusing, busy story, many characters are ambiguous, demonstrating unclear motivations and ever shifting alliances. Harley, however, is the exception; he’s the ultimate antihero, complete with a broken moral compass, a penchant for random violence, and an emotionally satisfying back story.
A richly imagined and intriguing sci-fi debut.