As I always do, let’s start out with the things I like, and of what I liked, I think the writing style is my favorite part of this book. Though some of the humor that Heron weaves in works and some parts don’t, it is refreshing to read, especially since the book can get a little ‘I did this then I did that’ at times. Also, some of the humor was crude, which I personally am not a fan of, but most of it fit the characters or the story, so I’m not docking the rating for my own personal preference.
I did find a few odd parts here and there, like one moment where the hero wakes up because of 'invading light' that shone through 'tightly closed lids' - which, when she opens her eyes, she has to shield her eyes. A moment later, we find out that this impressive light is coming from a single, solitary candle. Then, when she finds a note someone left for her, she has to hold the note closer to this same candle in order to see it.
The story is also somewhat predictable. You have your small colonies of survivors all huddled behind the safety of large walls in a small community called Haven. You have your motorcycle gangs, which turn out to be Vamps - not true vampires, but close. You have your cannibals and groups of 'raiders' led by some insane psychopath. And you have your common, everyday vehicles that have been turned into massive battlewagons. The novel definitely fits the 'Mad Max' genre here.
I also enjoyed most of the characters. They are well thought out, likable and believable in their personalities, though the main heroes seem a bit over-the-top badass, and the main villain is way, way over-the-top psycho.
What I did not get from the story is the claim on the back cover that this is a ‘profoundly human story’. It seemed more like a ‘let’s run around this post-apocalyptic world and kill stuff.’ Also, the narrative is plagued with inconsistencies and plot holes. Like how supposedly the MC is desperate to return home, and yet in the two years time that passes between Chapter 1 and Chapter 2, she has only managed to travel 1100 miles, or basically 1.5 miles each day. For someone desperate to reach home, she’s really taking her time.
We also don’t learn exactly what kind of bombs were dropped, however, since the back cover says the world is ‘nothing more than a wasteland’ and that humanity was ‘nearly eradicated’, I assume it would not be conventional warheads as there aren’t enough of those available to complete a task that large. In comparison, from 1964 to 1973 the US dropped 2.5 million tons of conventional warheads on the country of Laos, which is smaller in size than the State of California, and yet we did not turn that country into a wasteland, nor did we eradicate the people. So, I have to assume these bombs were atomic, or perhaps chemical. The book does not state.
If the bombs were either atomic or chemical, then that raises a few questions. Like, is two years time enough for the world to denigrate into the ‘Mad Max’ type communities that we find? For example, Heron writes about large storage places where food and supplies are readily available, and yet, people are eating people. Why?
And then the Vamps. They feed on the blood of non-Vamps in an effort to cleanse themselves of their affliction. We never learn how they were afflicted in the first place. If it was a genetic mutation brought about by radiation, again, is two years time enough for mutations like that to affect hundreds of people? If not, where did they come from?
And what about nuclear winter? I’m fairly certain the fallout from using enough atomic weapons to nearly eradicate the entire population would take more than a few months to clear, yet there is no mention of tainted water supplies, nor is any of the food in the storage places ruined from radiation.
Finally, the 'Raiders' have spent time and effort converting common vehicles into military-like battlewagons, and yet at one point in the book we find our hero inside a military base with perfectly usable (and fully supplied) military vehicles. Why didn't the Raiders think to look there? (Yes, I’m familiar with the concept of ‘suspend disbelief’ when reading fiction, but the story should still be plausible)
There are a few odd moments throughout as well, like one part where the hero wakes up because of 'invading light' that shone through her 'tightly closed lids'. When she opens her eyes, she has to shield them from the light. A moment later, we find out that this impressive light is coming from a single, solitary candle. And then, when she finds a note someone left for her, she has to hold the note closer to this same candle in order to see it. (Huh?)
Finally, there were so many times when I really, really wanted the story to improve, only to be disappointed again. My last example - during the raid on the military base, the leader of the Vamps is introduced as a creature who is so brilliantly white that Phoenix can't even look directly at him. A few chapters later we have the epic showdown battle between one of our three heroes and this same brilliantly glowing ‘angelic’ creature, who is killed far too easily for a character I would assume (from the brighter-than-the-sun complexion) would have some form of special abilities. Sadly, when he dies, the character who kills him literally says he was "Nothing more than a man." No further explanation of why he was glowing is given.
Bottom line – Heron’s story does show talent, but the numerous plot holes, inconsistencies and lack of backstory make this an enjoyable but fairly mediocre read. I’m giving it a generous 3 stars.