Sometimes the end of the world is just the beginning. In 2019, Easter Sunday, a spike in Internet chatter amongst Iranian, Chinese, and Russian users gives a swansong to the era of global nuclear peace as America’s capitals are wiped from the map. After the five years of devastating conflict – later dubbed the “World Annihilation” period – humanity lives on in its pockets; in secluded villages that escaped the crosshairs of the major powers that have long gone silent.
Over half a century passes, and a bastion of hope formerly called Riding Mountain National Park becomes home to the new town of Ukkiville. A whole new culture of post-humanity dawns in the prosperous valley, including three friends – and one pet polar bear. As peace is shattered by rivalries, strange creatures born from ther wastes, and a new scientific advancement that threatens the final remnants of the human race, these three uphold their sacred vows to protect their home and maintain the New World they now hold dear in The New World: A Step Backward by Andy Skrzynski, the first book in an emerging series.
While the bare-bones concept is now pretty well-trodden, the post-nuclear science-fantasy setting is certainly unique in execution. The world is keenly defined, as the author’s attention to detail and astute speculation on current events spins a very believable world that still holds a strong likeness to the former (modern), pre-war identity. In particular, the generation-plus-one that populates this future Dystopia conforms a half-alien manner and dialect that pulls very intelligently on modern language and culture, as well as half-remembered myth and legend. The result is something akin to a more relaxed, American-based Nadsat with almost misunderstood Norse references scattered here and there. This is imposed on a fairly brutal, rural culture where warriors and hunters are suddenly a daily feature of life. It’s a fine and careful combination and the book really stands out among its peers for daring to be different.
The plot similarly seems at first glance to be fairly tested waters, but definitely takes on new dimensions with the author’s creativity. The main trio in particular at times come out as slightly flat due to a frequent agentic position they naturally fall into against the much more colorful and unusual forces of the story. Still, they’re far from bland fantasy cut-outs and their relationships with each other and others remain a real driving force beneath the other more world-shaking, honor-based motivations. Perhaps more frequent deeper moments would have benefitted the read, yet it would be a push to say that the book ends wanting in that regard.
The book handily has a reference for much of the common slang and naming conventions used within, and the product is very well edited throughout. I found each chapter to be well-paced and divided up quite perfectly for stopping and starting. It’s a book that’s very easy to slip into for a fix of something familiar but bold enough to stand out. If a nice medium between old and new is what you’re looking for, this title is definitely worth giving a few chapters to let the story sink its claws in.
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