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In 2072 a bacterial infection that does not respond to antibiotics kills the vast majority of humanity. Too few people survive to maintain civilization. Governments collapse. The few stunned survivors struggle on in an empty, unsympathetic world. Ex-professor Matt Pringle belongs to one of the scrounger gangs which gather goods, which they call “truck,” from the ruins to sell in the few small communities of survivors. Twelve years after the pandemic men from Chadwick’s gang which controls the town of Columbia, ...
In 2072 a bacterial infection that does not respond to antibiotics kills the vast majority of humanity. Too few people survive to maintain civilization. Governments collapse. The few stunned survivors struggle on in an empty, unsympathetic world. Ex-professor Matt Pringle belongs to one of the scrounger gangs which gather goods, which they call “truck,” from the ruins to sell in the few small communities of survivors. Twelve years after the pandemic men from Chadwick’s gang which controls the town of Columbia, ambushes Matt’s gang one night as they sleep and kill their leader Boss Johnson and two others.
In their flight they meet John Moore, an intelligent 12-year-old who lives with four elders in an otherwise deserted village. One of them, Maude, who doesn’t want John stranded after their death, convinces the gang to take him to a family that raises children whose parents died during the disease. They take John along but he refuses to leave the gang despite Matt’s protestations. Even without the danger of their pursuing enemies Matt believes John should remain in a settlement. Intelligent young people are needed to resurrect civilization. But John has come to crave the adventurous life he believes the scroungers lead.
They reach a community they believe to be fairly safe from Chadwick’s gang, Coleridge Gardens, and move into its only hotel, Haas House. They plan to sell their “truck” at its market. With that and two other sources of wealth they will to flee to a safer area. One source is a stash of gold bullion buried some distance away. When they go to retrieve it they find the first of four footlockers in which they stored it empty except for a note. Left by Boss Johnson, it tells them he has taken it. They are stunned by their own leader’s treachery. He has, of course, taken the secret of its new location to his grave.
Their other source of wealth is in savings accounts in a bank in the much larger town of Nellie’s Fair several days travel away. Matt must make the trip because he is the only original gang member Chadwick’s men have not seen. On the way Matt meets a group of Chadwick’s gang searching for them, led by Del Matheson, in a nearby town. Matheson tells Matt Chadwick is mad at him for not killing all of the Johnson gang and that his next stop is Coleridge Gardens.
Meanwhile in Coleridge Gardens John faces a dilemma. Gang members must provide their own personal items, called “scratch,” and contribute toward the purchase of supplies used in common by the gang. If he remains with the gang he must find a way to earn money. Then the Haas House landlord says he needs to hire another worker. John volunteers and, despite his youth, learns to be an excellent brewer.
John finds life in Coleridge Gardens more complex than in his former tiny social group, and sometimes disturbing. He becomes interested in Alicia Coleridge, daughter of the town’s autocratic Mayor. Her initial encouragement turns to rejection while her much too young sister Jaclyn brazenly flirts with him. With the sisters, he attends a revival sermon which claims the pandemic is part of a chain of events leading to Armageddon, battle that ends the world. Matt has become John’s best friend and mentor. He longs for his return to explain all this.
Matheson sends Matt to go see Chadwick to find out if he is still mad. During Matt’s visit he is identified as a member of the Johnson gang, captured and barely escapes torture and death. On his way back to Matheson Matt finds a way to bring Matheson and Chadwick together in a conflict which ultimately frees the town of Columbia.
John decides that Alicia and he live in disparate worlds that can never overlap, she as part of the new aristocracy and he a homeless vagabond.
Matt explains the fundamentalist Christian beliefs that begat the disturbing sermon. John finds the Shadow looming over the world more palpable and sinister than that cast by the indeterminate End Times battle of Armageddon.
Posted May 21, 2014
I was pleased to find what an engaging book this is. Some points are driven home with the subtlety ofa bulldozer. I like antiheroes who wish they had any other future thanthe one they are facing, but deal with the issues with grit and caring for their chosen brothers. It is afine flavored primer on leadership at its best.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.