This is another one that was compelling enough that I almost gave it five stars, but in the end I held back because it didn’t really have any deeper meaning than just a really, really good story about a man who’ll stop at nothing to avenge the memory of his wife and daughter.
Huxley, his wife, and their daughter survived “the sky fire” and built a new life for themselves in a commune on the western edge of “the wastelands”, and area that seems to correlate to the American southwest. Then the slavers came, raped and killed his wife, and took his daughter to market somewhere in the East. The story opens with Huxley near death as he’s given water by Jay, another broken man burning up inside with hate for the slavers. Together they go east, looking to “make them bleed” for what they’ve done. Others join the trip here and there, and adventures happen. Eventually, Huxley finds more than he bargained for in the Riverlands as it is invaded by the Eastern Democratic States of the old East Coast of America.
The book’s focus is really on Huxley’s inner struggle. Has he become as bad as the people he is hunting? He kills without mercy when needed, and unleashes the rage of his companions, who do much worse, and shoulders the guilt for their actions afterward. He fears becoming a monster his wife and daughter wouldn’t even recognize.
The action is non-stop, the story is gripping, the characters are mostly fleshed out. I had issue with a couple of things with the plot, but they were fairly minor. The first was Huxley not asking any questions but just accepting Don’s word about who controlled the water where the met Lowell. The second was Huxley’s sudden change in attitude toward Jay; it just seemed to happen too fast.
Christian Rummel did an excellent job narrating the book. Each character had a unique tone and dialect and I liked the inflections for Huxley as his mood changed.
If you like Westerns or post-apocalyptic fiction, you’ll like this one. It’s sort of Mad Max meets Terminator in a Sergio Leone atmosphere.