Jamie Horwath’s short novel is set in a post-apocalyptic world where humankind has been forced underground because of the proliferation of nebulous “binary cell mutations.”
Revolving around three characters — Bear, Bird, and Fox — all of whom were born and raised in a subterranean society that is described as “militaristic” and “patriarchal, the storyline initially follows Bear as he tries to complete a dangerous mission on the planet’s surface. He is a Collector, a person whose job it is to track down and return Observers (“human tape recorders” disguised as robots) to the Elder Council. But in his travels across the wasteland, Bear’s perspective of life has been radically altered by what he has found in the ruins: magazines, postcards, etc. He has decided to go rogue and remain aboveground. Two of his childhood friends (Bird and Fox) are sent to either retrieve him — or kill him.
Particularly with a theme that examines free will, an obvious strength of this storyline should have been the dichotomy between the repressive society below and Bear’s limitless freedom above. Post-apocalyptic cultures are undeniably intriguing — A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr., Sophie Littlefield’s Aftertime trilogy, ’70’s cult movies THX 1138 and Logan’s Run, etc. — but Horwath’s society is only superficially explored; an opportunity to enrich the storyline and intensify the theme was lost. The biggest concern, however, is the awkward narrative, which is replete with ill-phrased prose such as, “shrieks begged for attentive ears” and “the appendage shook and screamed.”
Although this novel has some remarkable moments, especially towards the conclusion, the prevalence of gaping plot holes concerning the underground society, the creatures, etc. — and an unwieldy narrative makes this a potential-laden but ultimately forgettable post-apocalyptic yarn.
Also available as an ebook.