An augmented soldier fights against apocalyptic nightmares in a brutal war to save humanity.
Debut novelist Ashcroft unleashes a witch’s brew of macabre, Lovecraft-ian imagery in this strange horror novel that couches a heavy emotional arc within its video game–like setting. Our narrator is former LAPD officer–turned–cybernetic survivor Theo Adams circa 2051, in the last days of the human race. Seven years earlier a “Hollow War” decimated Earth’s population with rail guns and viruses before unleashing the terrifying creatures of the Harvest, known to survivors as the Scourge: “The fiends, bruisers, tender-monkeys, huddlers, snatch rats, cabritas. Rape, slaughter, feast. You don’t need to be reminded in detail. You got organized. You got weapons and established perimeters.” Now some 50,000 scarred survivors remain in the Santa Monica Collective, a ragtag, militarized band of soldiers barely winning skirmishes with the monsters they face. On one side of this conflict there is the Megarothke, the unstoppable, spiderlike killing machine who leads the Scourge, aided by a human quisling called The Recluse. On the other, the Orbital, a desperate but well-armed group of survivors who have fled to orbit but yearn to return to Earth. In flashbacks, Theo takes us back 10 years to his troubled, soon-to-end marriage, whose only saving grace is his daughter, Amelie. The situation is made worse when his ex becomes entangled with a cult called the Trans-Sentience movement, where a splinter faction wants to use a kind of sorcery to summon a powerful demon called the Lightbringer. It’s some heavy mythology-building but Ashcroft’s skillful blend of noir vocabulary and cyberpunk aesthetics work to its advantage. Between its robotic doppelgängers, mutated monsters, and actual ray guns, the book manages to take a hard look at what it means to be human in an age when humanity barely remains.
A bloody, blistering novel of war and sacrifice set in a time of actual monsters.