Young, Moira. Blood Red Road (2011). 464 Pages. Simon & Schuster. $17.99
Dustlands: Book One
This review is pre-release: It comes out June 7, 2011.
Saba has spent her whole life in Silverlake, a dried-up wasteland ravaged by constant sandstorms. The Wrecker civilization has long been destroyed, leaving only landfills for Saba and her family to scavenge from. That’s fine by her, as long as her beloved twin brother Lugh is around. But when a monster sandstorm arrives, along with four cloaked horsemen, Saba’s world is shattered. Lugh is captured, and Saba embarks on an epic quest to get him back.
Suddenly thrown into the lawless, ugly reality of the world outside of desolate Silverlake, Saba is lost without Lugh to guide her. So perhaps the most surprising thing of all is what Saba learns about herself: she’s a fierce fighter, an unbeatable survivor, and a cunning opponent. And she has the power to take down a corrupt society from the inside. Teamed up with a handsome daredevil named Jack and a gang of girl revolutionaries called the Free Hawks, Saba stages a showdown that will change the course of her own civilization.
The day’s hot. So hot an so dry that all I can taste in my mouth is dust. The kinda white heat day when you can hear th’earth crack.
We ain’t had a drop of rain fer near six months now. Even the spring that feeds the lake’s startin to run dry. You gotta walk some ways now to fill a bucket. Pretty soon, there won’t be no point in callin it by its name.
The first thing which seems to strike readers, and the thing which seems to most strongly influence the reviews is the language. There are no quotation marks around dialog, and there are frequent spelling/grammar errors which are deliberate and stylistic. It took a lot of effort to get past it at first, though as the story progressed I noticed it less and less. By the end of the book, while I wasn’t exactly thrilled with it, I was able to ignore it.**
It doesn’t take long for the story to take off. We get a brief interlude with Saba, Lugh, Emmi, and their dad on a hot day near Silverlake. But it’s interrupted by a sandstorm, and before anyone knows what’s going on, Lugh has been taken, and Saba left behind. She’s never been without her twin before, and his absence is shocking and painful. Determined to rescue him, Saba sets off on the a journey which will shape her, and change her view of the world***.
The world is reminiscent of Fallout for me, and I found myself picturing something like Megaton when they were describing Hopetown. There are encounters with “Wrecker” technology– flying machines and towns things– most of them scavenge for parts as survivors tried to just get by. The reason for the downfall of the “Wreckers” is never explained, but their legacy lives on through ghost towns and scrapyards.
I was quickly drawn into the story, and by the time Saba had reached Hopetown, I was so hooked that I didn’t even stop reading for dinner. (I’ve always been a reader, so I’ve mastered the art of eating-without-looking, and solitary meals are often accompanied by a book.) Around 2am I’d reached the end, and was both satisfied and frustrated. It was a great story, with a solid build-up, an exciting climax, and a reasonable denouement, but it’s leading up to a volume 2, which is both good and bad; good because that means there’s more about these characters, bad because it wasn’t a complete resolution, and now I have to wait for more.
Ultimately, it’s going to be a trilogy, from what I can tell.
Still, I’d wholeheartedly suggest this book to anyone who feels they can deal with odd style choices if it means getting to read an awesome story. It gets a solid 5/5. I can’t wait for the next volume.
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Disclosure: This was a review copy which I got via Simon & Schuster’s GalleyGrab program.
* Adding a [sic] to the entire quote. It’s a stylistic choice, but there are numerous deliberate spelling/grammar errors repeated throughout the book. Also, this is taken from a review copy, so it may not be exact. I’ll double-check against a published copy when it comes out.
** Though I did find it funny that while “plateau” was spelled properly, “aks” wasn’t.
*** Yep, it’s a quest. That’s alright. I like these.