The Dead Lands by Benajmin Percy is an apocalyptic road story that follows in the footsteps of the great American foundation myth of Louis and Clark. One hundred and fifty years after a pandemic flu wiped out most of humanity, a stranger comes to the walled city of St. Louis. The stranger reports on the world beyond the confines of the city, inspiring inhabitants like adventurous badass, Mina Clark, and a group of explorers to set out into the now unknown wild of the world outside the wall. Museum curator, Lewis Meriwether, is the group’s primary source of information about what was known of the former United States, and he also happens to be rather good at handy steam punk-type inventions.
Summer is the perfect time to read something a little bit scary and a little bit dark. Maybe it's all those extra hours of daylight? The Dead Lands is an ideal read for taking advantage of the safety of those extra sunlit hours. Benjamin Percy is a writer who has returned from the land of high literary fiction to the realms of genre, bringing all the demands of craft and character with him. This book is beach reading for literary types.
I had the pleasure of attending Percy's reading of The Dead Lands at the Tattered Cover. While a skilled writer in profession, Percy is a teacher at heart. Check out this cool pod cast recorded at the Tattered Cover. Not only does he give an excellent reading, he also answers questions about The Dead Lands and his writing process.
I made note of this quote while reading because it not only describes the character of Lewis Merriweather, it describes Mr. Percy as well:
It's wonderful to hear Benjamin Percy read his work in his own voice (he has a very deep and interesting voice which adds an extra layer of atmosphere to the text). Fascinating vocal stylings aside, hearing the way a writer reads the sentences he wrote also helps me as a reader. It makes what could be a slog through descriptive lists easier to take when you can hear the inflection of the writer (the first page is full of list-type sentences; just read on, either it gets better or you stop noticing—this is the only negative I encountered reading this entertaining book).
Readers who liked apocalypse stories like The Stand, The Road, Snowpiercer, and Station Eleven will enjoy The Dead Lands. It's also a great read for people with an interest in alternative history and/or the Lewis and Clark story.
Grand Central Publishing, Hardcover 400 pages, $26.