255 pages. Leisure Books Action imprint.
It takes the author a few chapters to get around to explaining everything, but the basic premise is that the Founder spent a fortune to prepare for the coming nuclear war. Now, 100 years in the future, a growing health crisis forces the Family to explore beyond their isolated Home.
Based on the Founder's teachings, the Family has developed many unique customs. For example, most family members eventually adopt a single name, perhaps representing their skills or memorializing a favorite person from history. The hero of the tale, Blade, has a particular gift for knife-fighting.
The pack didn't miss a beat.
Another dog, a mixed breed, came in low and fast and struck Blade in the legs as he was notching another arrow to the bow string.
Blade fell, flinging the bow aside, grabbing his Bowie knives, slashing right and left, frantically cutting and slicing, berserk, and he lost count of the number of dogs he laid open, the fur and the dust and the blood flying in every direction, the barking and snapping and yowling reaching a crescendo.
The Family dwells in the Home, a fortified encampment with bunkers designed to survive the nuclear war. Their location in furthest Minnesota has kept them isolated. Their generators quit decades ago, but they still have a large arsenal and generous stocks of ammunition.
Family members adopt roles based on their skills and inclinations, including Healers, Spinners, Librarians, and the vital Warriors. The Warriors are organized into three-man Triads, ranked from Alpha downwards.
The Family Leader is theoretically elected, but in practice is selected and trained by the previous Leader. The current Leader is named Plato.
"You are aware I sent two of our Warriors to retrieve their Triad leader. I intend to send the Alpha Triad on a mission, a potentially dangerous mission from which they might never return."
"At last! Some action!" Hickok exclaimed.
"Why?" Jenny demanded, casting an apprehensive glance at Blade.
"Because I have reason to believe that unless drastic action, as Mr. Hickok so enthusiastically refers to it, is taken immediately, the Family is faced with the bleak possibility of impending extinction."
The Family faces many challenges for survival. There are mysterious, toxic clouds that appear without warning. There are animals which have become corrupted - known as mutates, or "pusheads" - which gorge on living flesh.
They are also beginning to run out of some resources. They have no electricity, and only rusted-out vehicles. Medical supplies are dwindling, and horses are scarce. They must send out hunting parties for meat as their meat animals have died out.
But the greatest threat to their ultimate survival is a creeping senility which strikes each generation earlier than the last.
"This is great, pard," he overheard Hickok saying to Geronimo. "Just think of it! The first of the Family to see the world! Who knows what we'll find out there!"
Quite probably, Plato reflected, your death.
This novel is about the Family's first expedition to explore and make contact with the outside world. Alpha Triad - Blade, Geronimo and Hickok - are tasked with reaching one of the settlements shown on their ancient maps, recovering supplies, and seeking knowledge about the outside world.
As you might expect, this book is action-oriented, with lots of weapons and types of fighting. The author has put a lot of thought into his fictional world, but that part was not as satisfying for me. The characters are sharply drawn, and yet two-dimensional. The writing is adequate, except for the fighting scenes which are well handled. There is definitely violence (and a bit of torture), sometimes in detail as seems appropriate for the genre.
The bottom line is that it's kind of fun on a sci-fi pulp basis, but not fine literature. Lots of ideas here for post-apocalyptic games, though.
I hadn't heard of the Endworld series before, but apparently it was originally published in the 1980s. There are 42 books in the series, plus at least one spin-off series and a few prequels. The others are not in print currently, but some are available in eBook and audio editions.
Reviewed by Editor in Chief Bill .