375 pages. Acknowledgments.
Going outside is a roll of the dice. Sometimes you don't get home. There're banditos, wild dogs, toxic smoke, flash fires, Randoms who've gone nuts and don't care any more. Berserkers, rageaholics, I've even heard of kids who murder people for fun.
These two questions pretty much sum things up these days: a big WHY and, right next to it, a big WHY NOT?
The story is told alternatively from the perspective of Jefferson and Donna – teenagers, survivors, friends and perhaps future lovers.
As the novel gradually explains, a virus killed off all of the adults and little children two years ago, leaving only the teenagers alive. Teenagers who are sterile. Teenagers who die soon after their 18th birthday.
Jefferson and his late older brother Washington organized a commune in New York City where they have some of the fundamentals of life, but never enough food. Brainbox is the genius who keeps the generators running. He's the one who proposes making the dangerous trip to the central library, in search of a medical journal which might provide a cure to the virus.
This leads to Washington, Brainbox, Donna (warrior woman who won't give up her phone), Peter (black gay Christian), and SeeThrough (martial artist) driving the commune's truck into a dangerous part of New York City…
The novel is very well written, and you feel like the two main characters are messed-up teenagers just trying to do their best in a world that's burning around them (literally).
The plot, however, is perhaps the oldest sci-fi plot of all: a travelogue of the places and people they encounter on their quest. Very little is fresh here: the tribes of New York City are racist, sexist, aggressive, and often insane. Meet interesting people, then see them die.
I enjoyed the characters and the writing style enough to finish the novel, but the ending was a big disappointment that invalidated all of the struggles and sacrifices.
Can you wargame it? The book could easily be used as the basis for a post-apocalyptic campaign. There are many combats that could inspire scenarios.
Bit of a mixed conclusion here. I liked the characters and writing style, thought the setting and plot were unoriginal, but the disappointing ending turns this into a thumbs down.
Reviewed by Editor in Chief Bill .