There have always been the restless souls. Those among us who have to break free, to see other sites, to find something new or different. The desire and need to explore has always been present. This time, familiar names are once again exploring – Lewis and Clark. Similar names, different souls. The route is similar as well, but the land has been ravaged.
Mankind, after an unstoppable flu swept through the land, let loose their most destructive weapons in hopes of stopping the unstoppable. The land is now inhospitable and toxic, the sun’s rays lashing skin with reckless abandon, creatures, malformed from the fallout, lurk everywhere. This version of Lewis is reluctant and unsure. This Clark, a female, more confident in her desire that they will find a livable terrain. Their home, St. Louis was their Sanctuary. It was turned to a living prison by a megalomaniac mayor. Lewis and Clark secretly head out, following Gaewa, the mysterious black eyed stranger, to an unknown land looking for resources and a better life. The search for a better life won’t be an easy one – not for Lewis and Clark and not for those left behind in Sanctuary.
Benjamin Percy’s most recent book, The Dead Lands, has a quote on the cover from Stephen King reading “Good God, what a tale. Don’t miss it.” While my reaction to the book wasn’t quite as enthusiastic, I do agree with King. The Dead Lands is a great tale and has the feel of an epic journey. The story is engrossing and wraps you into a cocoon of a pleasing narrative. Lewis Meriwether and Mina Clark, a post-apocalyptic rendering of the original explorers, make a good team. Clark, an alcoholic, and Lewis, a drug addicted hermit, offer a good balance to one another. They eventually come to rely on each other as well. The events in Sanctuary serve as a secondary story. I enjoyed finding out how life continued on for those living in Sanctuary after Lewis and Clark’s departure. Another aspect I liked was how, just as a chapter was leading to a exciting point, Percy cut away to action in another spot. Initially making me want to keep on reading to find out what just happened, then finding myself engrossed in the new chapter, to only be ripped away again.
I had the opportunity to go see Benjamin Percy at a local bookstore as part of his tour in support of The Dead Lands. It has been my favorite author event to date. Percy has a deep, booming voice reminiscent of a movie trailer announcer. In person he’s an excellent storyteller and very captivating to listen to. One thing he mentioned was how sometimes the lead up to the conclusion was much more exciting than the actual ending. The anticipation sometimes getting the better of you with expectations being much higher than they should be. He conveyed this in what I thought was an extremely funny, long-story joke. The punch line was very “ugh, really?”, but the lead up to it and the story surrounding it was very satisfying, making up for the mediocre ending. If you ever have the chance to go see him, don’t miss it. It’ll be well worth your time.
The Dead Lands was an enjoyable read. It’s definitely much more of a tale that engrosses you than a story you can read and set aside and go back to. The post-apocalyptic setting seems very feasible given the threat of mass-destruction weapons in today’s reality. Percy is a eloquent writer but sometimes tends towards the too wordy. That being said, I’d take a well written, too wordy story over a badly written, short line story any day.
If you like books that take you on a journey this one’s for you.