One thing that struck me as I pages through Benjamin Percy's dystopia novel The Dead Lands was how much I've seen all of this before. Yes, there is some creative passages and interesting world building -like the mutated creatures that haunt the land that reminded me of the old 1950's B films about the effects of nuclear fallout- going on, but the essences of what might happen if the world was to end and the survivors had to pick things up is very familiar. Turn on the news and you see men wanting power and what they will do to get that power, mostly through fear and intimidation, but also seem to have no qualms about hurting and killing people as well.
In this post-apocalyptic reimagining of the Lewis and Clark saga, a super flu and nuclear fallout have made a husk of the world we know. A few humans carry on, living in outposts such as the Sanctuary-the remains of St. Louis-a shielded community that owes its survival to its militant defense and fear-mongering leaders. Set 150 years from on or around our time, this post-apocalyptic reimagining of the Lewis and Clark saga, tells the story of a super flu and nuclear fallout have made a husk of the world we know. A few humans carry on, living in outposts such as the Sanctuary-the remains of St. Louis-a shielded community that owes its survival to its militant defense and fear-mongering leaders. Many within Sanctuary know the water is nearly gone (unaware that their Mayor, Thomas Lancer, is hoarding it for his baths with his twink Vincent) but because they fear him and the men (all men) who work under him, no one is willing to speak up. But then a rider comes from the wasteland beyond Sanctuary's walls. She reports that world is moving on and is coming back to life, that west of the Cascades, rain falls, crops grow, and new civilizations are thriving. The girl comes with a message to one Lewis Meriwether from a man named Aran Burr, requesting him to venture to Oregon. But the girl Gawea warns that there is danger: a powerful of army of men that pillages and enslaves every community they happen upon. Against the wishes of the Sanctuary, a small group sets out in secrecy. Led by Lewis Meriwether and Mina Clark, they hope to expand their infant nation, and to reunite the States. But the Sanctuary will not allow them to escape without a fight.
While the historical Lewis and Clark are an aspect of the fictional ones here, I'm unsure if this book was supposed to be some sort of metaphor or allegory; because either I missed it or it was edited out to make the book shorter than its 400 pages. Like most dystopian themed novels, we see the rise of a nearly fascist empire replacing a representative government. Yes, the people of Sanctuary are thrown back in time to live like an old western town right out of a John Wayne movie, and that maybe the more truthful, but it's telling how today's authors see that if things were to fall apart with a super flu or a nuclear strike, good old democracy will be the first thing to end after the deaths have subsided. And Percy goes into great detail to sort point out the obvious, that 1% are easily corruptible and the other 99% are just fodder for their horrible goals. I can't argue with that logic, but I also sort of found it annoying just the same. Still, I'm a realist and I see men, particularly white men, believing the reason they survived a pandemic is thrust authority down everyone's throat that the liberals have taken away from them.
In the end, the themes are nothing new here, and all the characters (even the "heroes") are damaged and mostly unlikable (another theme of modern novels). And thanks to Game of Thrones, be aware that Percy is willing to kill a character at any moments notice. It's a well crafted novel, but clearly no new themes was to be broke here as well.