Nick Kolakowski (Boise Longpig Hunting Club, Slaughterhouse Blues, Main Bad Guy, et al) dropped this bomb of a book in our laps with a mad cackle before leaping into a stripped down war buggy with a fifty cal mounted on top…
Okay, so that’s not quite true, but this is one hell of a ride of a book packed with gun fights, snow plow thefts, rogue AI, car chases and crime. It’s a twenty minute leap into the future when the world (or at least humanity) is shuffling a bit closer to the edge of extinction, where all the current problems we’re seeing now (rising sea levels, crumbling infrastructure, corporations at the expense of people) is turned up to 11.
Enter Maxine, a born-loser, born into poverty and crime and with no clear way out. Her mother is reliant on her drugs and welfare and her uncle lives out in the woods, a hillbilly gangster whose word carries further than his deeds. Maxine scrambles and claws and clambers, trying to make her life a better one starting with minor crime but then accelerating into harder and more daring escapades… though often with disastrous consequences. What’s most telling about the character of Maxine is her utter inability to stop going. Granted, it could be viewed that her inability to stop, her sheer unwillingness to bend, is what gets her into the most trouble throughout the book, but damn if she isn’t a more interesting character because of it.
While the world building is spot on, where Kolakowski excels is looking at how the future isn’t so different from the present we live in now. There’s still crime (violent and white collar, sanctioned and unsanctioned), people still fall in love, fall out of friendship, screw up and try to make amends. People carry the weight of their mistakes with them, and that often informs the next mistake they make. The characters that inhabit the book are flawed, dangerous, often broken people physically and emotionally, but they remain extremely human in their approaches to life.
This is a book if you enjoy The Warriors and Mad Max, if you don’t think people will automatically turn on their neighbors at the first sign of things getting rough, and if you think Alexa and Siri might be plotting the downfall of the human race. Honestly, I can’t recommend this enough.