As wildfires spawned by climate change cause America to collapse into savagery, a New Englander undertakes a perilous mission out West to find his daughter.
By 2025, the U.S. is literally falling apart: climate change and unchecked carbon dioxide emissions bring drought, food shortages, and runaway wildfires in the West. Scavengers and vicious gangs run rampant, and a desperate, brutal martial-law government (aka “the regime”) oppresses the weak and the refugees. Protagonist Mike Wade is a reluctant survivalist, a Vermont computer-app designer who perceived this coming and taught himself basic crossbow and shooting skills for the upcoming ordeal—fortunately, because his college-age daughter, Kara, becomes stranded somewhere near the Baja peninsula when everything falls apart. Wade journeys by train from the increasingly violent Chicago toward the scorching frontier in a twisting, turning quest through deserts and slot canyons for Kara. Backdraft fans expecting Armageddon-level firefighting will likely be disappointed that the flames stay on the distant horizon, as Wade and his changing band of short-term travel companions deal with the fallout of hunger, ash, disease, and continual threats of raids by neo-barbarians and fascistic authorities. Political types can parse whether the regime most resembles the administrations of Donald Trump, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, the leader in the Hunger Games series, or none of the above. Eco-cautionary themes of bitter despair occasionally acknowledge small acts of mercy and the continuation of the human spirit, come what may. There have been so many apocalyptic-dystopian survival adventures lately that someone should write a saga about America turning into a wasteland after being crushed under the weight of countless apocalyptic-dystopian novels. Meanwhile, Perry’s (Devastated Lands, 2017, etc.) tautly told tale turns out to be a vibrant addition to the genre, even if the premise—like a lot of the hardscrabble characters—looks rather ragged by now. The author originally published this epic as a two-part e-book before sewing the halves together, though the storyline still feels largely unresolved by the end. The tone deftly overlaps both the grown-up demographic and YA readership in which end-of-the-world narratives have spread like, well, wildfire.
This effective odyssey through a burned, blighted future America fails to break new (parched) ground but should slake the thirst of worst-case-scenario addicts.