Rothwell’s post-apocalyptic debut novel takes place after global warming ravages Earth and a new world order cobbles the pieces of the United States into a hegemonic nightmare.
In this all-too-near future, two men find themselves entwined in a conspiracy that will determine the future of the planet. The first is Mark Stills, a man balancing single parenthood with a vendetta against the politician who killed his brother. The second is Marshall Wyenth, who’s sentenced to gladiatorial combat for smoking. He’s not savvy in the ways of armed combat, though; he’s simply a nuclear physicist having a couple of hard-knock days. Binding their fates is Melvin Eliot—two parts crooked politician, one part survivalist, with a dash of Bond villain—and his plot to lower the Earth’s temperature by way of a nuclear winter. In other words, Rothwell knows how to bring interesting characters together. Granted, most are archetypes well represented in the dystopian-future genre—the reluctant everyman, the arena combatant, the despotic politician—but they all come with fun touches of originality. The world also contains some nifty gadgets and a helping of scientific fact to keep the sci-fi feeling real. Unfortunately, it can all be a rough read. Information repeats too often, sometimes in the very next sentence: “Most civilians didn’t have any idea how far a car could go without having to recharge. Like anything with a battery in it, [Stills] knew the car had to be recharged, but it was a mystery how far they could go.” There’s little focus, too. The book’s first half cuts through the timeline with abandon, and its omniscient narrator can’t settle on a comfortable perspective. At one point, the novel leaps between four different viewpoints in less than three pages. Finally, Eliot’s plot to bring about nuclear winter fizzles by novel’s end, making him just another bad guy with a bomb.
A solid core of character and concept that needs tighter editing to bring it up to speed.