Fantasist Baggott (Fuse, 2013, etc.) wraps up her post-apocalyptic Pure Trilogy with an installment that will leave fans wanting more.
Baggott is a worldbuilder; she imagines settings on a grand scale, and it’s not pretty. It’s a time after the Detonations, when the One Percenters—well, the well-connected, anyway—get to live under the safety of the Dome while the rest get to live in something that resembles Bartertown in that Mad Max film, save that there are melting faces and nuclear sickness to attend to on top of resource shortages. Inside the Dome lives Partridge, who, part of the resistance to the new order, now finds himself in charge. (There’s a neat element of Greek tragedy in that development.) Is he going to continue the Purist apartheid? Once the new boss takes his seat, natch, it’s tempting to take up where the old boss left off. Meanwhile, quickly growing up outside is Pressia, a tough and resourceful young woman who, at the head of an interestingly motley band of fighters, is now stuck with a vexing question: Can she trust Partridge to live up to his ideals, or does she have to fight him too? Baggott blends the fantastic with plausible science—not just on the nasty effects of radiation, but also on the mechanics of gene splicing (in this case, to create a herd of attack boars, “engineered to be domesticated like cattle but vicious too”). It’s a hallmark of good fantasy writing that all the elements of the imagined world are at once believable and not quite like the world in which we live, and Baggott eminently succeeds. She also writes arrestingly, and if her story drags a little as she ties together the many loose ends, it’s worth the longueurs to find sentences such as these: “Pressia steps in through what was once the doorway, her boots crunching the broken glass. Its roof is gone, like a gaping maw over her head. The floor shines with dark puddles of rain.”
It’s no place for a picnic, but we’ll hope that Baggott moves on to making another world just as engaging as this one.