In an uncertain future, humanity finally achieves its greatest technological breakthrough with cold fusion, and with the rise of growing political climates toward conservation, recedes into a technological utopia of the Hubs, interlinked cities across the world.
The decision of the majority of the population is solidified by the invention of the Link – a web-like virtual reality “Digiverse” – and the coming of the Rages, apocalyptic occurrences of unknown origin ranging from rapid climate changes to all animal life on the planet becoming wildly hostile to humans, and only humans.
It’s in these “intrestin” times that one Harley Nearwater travels in the void of land between Hubs, a hunter eschewing the technocentric norms and braving the dangers of nature’s wrath for his own selfish gain. Only in the death of a Federation soldier and the unexpected turning of events does Harley come to realize his place in things, and on his hands is the beginning of the end of the world.
Five Days Dead by James L. Davis is an apocalyptic book with all the usual trimmings but none of the usual focus. There’s zombies (the flesh-eating “Wrynd,”) but they’re only a major threat to those who go looking. There’s a Dystopian society clutching Humanity in an iron fist, and nobody honestly minds it beyond personal preference.
There’s death and drought but only for those who truly keep themselves from society, which gladly hands out power and healthcare to any and all. There’s raiders and thieves and chaos armed with laser pistols and swords, Mad Max-style, and the twist in it all is that our hero is not looking for redemption for his actions, but trying to find something to care about in a world that doesn’t care about much at all. Even the usual technophobic undertones often present in the genre are shrugged off, and the distaste for the culture is constantly rivaled by its utter convenience in the eyes of Harley. For a book about the apocalypse, the end of the world hasn’t really begun; the end of days is just sort of going on, a background problem in everyday life.
The first few pages tease cliche, but slip under the usual into something deeper and a little more introspective. That said, the plot moves into stranger and stranger tides over the course of the book, and sci-fi blends with fantasy with rises of what may or may not be magic, the spirit of Gaia, and sorcerous kings.
Ideas begin to layer over and a rich world is formed because of it, but it also becomes slightly jarring as the core of the story is blurred in a scope of what the author intends to become a nine-book series across 3000 years. The characters and the setting are very intriguing, but their full meaning and purpose seems to have been expanded so beyond a single book that it feels like a glimpse at a world with much more to offer than will be given any time soon.
The resolutions at the end of the book are just a beginning of something more, and no satisfying conclusion is really given beyond a rounding over of this particular thread in the tapestry. Torches need passing, and are promised to be carried properly in the sequel and true “first book” in The Book of The Shepherds series, Grayland.
While the writing is at times a little slow and many elements of the narrative are repeated, both themes and actions (Chapter Three left me with an urge for McDonald’s french fries) the story is well-explained and you never feel too lost in the information presented, even if that means quite a few expository paragraphs dotted and weaved into things. The fault of any pages that could be slimmed down by line or two is overshadowed by the now-and-then perfect moments that bring everything together in unexpected ways.
Five Days Dead is definitely one to look into, and its subsequent series promises a lot of intriguing elements that I truly hope are delivered.
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