The Wild Dead

The Wild Dead

by Carrie Vaughn

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780544947313
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 07/17/2018
Series: Bannerless Saga Series
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 215,453
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

CARRIE VAUGHN is the best-selling author of the Kitty Norville series, the most recent of which is the fourteenth installment, Kitty Saves the World. She is also the author of several other books, including the superhero novels Dreams of the Golden Age and After the Golden Age, the young adult novels Voices of Dragons and Steel, and the fantasy novel Discord’s Apple. Her Hugo Award–nominated short fiction has appeared in many magazines and anthologies, from Lightspeed to Tor.com, as well as in George R. R. Martin’s Wild Cards series. She lives in Colorado with a fluffy attack dog.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One • The Estuary
The Precarious House

Most regions Enid visited, she could find something to love about them, some enticing and beautiful detail about the landscape, the people, the mood of the place. A reason folk would want to stay and scrape out a living in less-than-ideal situations when a dozen other settlements had more resources and less disease, and would gladly welcome extra hands. Even the rainless, baking salt flats at the southernmost end of the Coast Road had isolation to recommend them, for those who wanted to be left alone. And just to show that every place had a reason for existing, the people of Desolata household there exported the salt they collected from the flats on their own trade route.

But here in the Estuary, Enid had to consider for a while what exactly the appeal was. Over the damp marsh where the San Joe River drained, clouds of bugs rose up through a sticky haze, shimmering with heat. Squealing gulls gathered, circling on slender wings, drawn by some rotting treasure. There were no orchards here, no pastures, no rippling fields of grain. Instead, a dozen scraggly goats, stuttering their calls to one another, picked at brush along the last trailing edge of the Coast Road. Presumably, there were fish in the river to eat, along with shellfish and the like this close to the ocean. In checking the settlement’s records, Enid had learned that it rarely exceeded quotas—because there wasn’t enough to start with. The folk rarely earned banners, either, and had few children. Why would anyone stay in such a place? Perhaps because in the end it was home . . . and sometimes that was enough.

The sunlight here had a bronze cast that she had never seen anywhere else, and the light made the water seem molten, flashing with ripples to the horizon, broken up with stands of marsh grass and the sticks of old dead trees. If you’d lived here forever, the light might seem warm, the air like a favorite blanket on the skin.

That was what she told herself, to try to understand the people here a little better. Because at the moment, her patience was waning.

“Would you look at that,” her new partner, Teeg, murmured, clearly amazed. A short, sturdy kid, he shaded his eyes with one hand and gripped a staff with the other. Had a manic way of moving, like he’d rather be running ahead than slowing down enough to be methodical. His shining black hair was tied in a short, sloppy braid at the back of his neck, and his lips always seemed to be pursed, like he was thinking hard. When he wasn’t talking. This was his first official case as an investigator. “They said it needed repairs. I thought they meant a new roof, maybe it had holes in the walls. Does it even count as a house anymore when it looks like this?”

Erik, head of the Semperfi household, looked at the young investigator with dismay.

Erik’s request for a mediation had brought Enid and Teeg to the Estuary. Semperfi household had a building that needed repairs, Erik’s request had stated. The community refused to help with those repairs, despite all the support Semperfi had provided to other households over the years. Records supported this assertion—Semperfi had been the first household in the region, and was an anchor. Normally, a town’s committee would mediate this kind of disagreement, but the Estuary didn’t have a committee. Didn’t need one, the people claimed. They didn’t consider themselves a town, but a loose collection of households whose members preferred to rely on themselves and one another. The regional committee at Morada set quotas and awarded banners, and medics came through a couple of times a year to check birth-control implants and general well-being. Place like this didn’t need a committee until it did, and so Erik’s household had to send for investigators to settle the dispute. Now that Enid and Teeg were here, it became clear to them that the building in question was far past anything resembling salvageable.

The structure, a sprawling, single-story block of a house, was old, a pre-Fall construction. Wood and brick walls sat on a crumbling concrete slab, covered with some kind of plastic siding that was cracked and disintegrating. What strips of it remained were held up with nails, twine, and hope. It might have been blue once, but it had long ago faded to a sickly gray. The siding survived only on the lee side of the house; the windward was built up with wood slats and leather hides—layers and layers of them—evidently replaced as the next bout of wind tore them off. Likewise, the slanted roof might once have had purpose-made shingles, slate tile or plywood, but the decades hadn’t been kind and the surface was now patched with reeds and hides. What was left of the structure still dripped from last week’s bad storm.

All that was bad enough, but the land under the house was falling away. Years of storms had eaten at the ground, mudslide after mudslide eroding it until half the house now stood over nothing but air. This last storm had made the problem critical. Huge slabs of concrete lay at the bottom of the slippery hill, the house’s foundation lying in crooked, broken pieces, sliding inevitably toward the river. Tree trunks, two-by-fours, scavenged steel rebar, and rusted scaffolding precariously held up what was left. A house partway on stilts—not like the sturdy pylons of the other structures in the area, but thin and haphazard. A breeze would knock it down. Somehow it was all still standing. Clearly, the structure was at a literal tipping point. If it lost any more ground, the whole thing would fall. No amount of stopgap framework supports could possibly keep it stable. And yet, the folk of Semperfi were clearly trying.
Even the overly emotional testimonies of folk from Bonavista and Pine Grove, the first two households up the path up here, couldn’t possibly have prepared Enid for how bad the wreck really was. The folk had complained about how awful the house was, that it was a waste of resources—about the worst insult possible. It never should have required investigators to decide this.

“It’s a lovely view, anyway,” Enid murmured, looking out over the sluggish river and golden, shimmering marshes of the Estuary. A century ago, there’d probably been an entire neighborhood, an entire city, of nice houses just like this one—or just like this one must have been, once upon a time—a grid of streets, sturdy street lamps lighting it all up bright as day at all hours of the night. Signs of that old world littered the marsh, all the way to the horizon. Canted blocks of concrete, broken towers of steel, whole berms of debris washed up on the tide. Some of the households here made their living by scavenging. Lots of that to be had, constantly turned over by waves and storms.

Before the Fall, this neighborhood would have been miles from the ocean. Back then, flooding may not have even come close. But then it had, and the other houses fell away. Semperfi had saved this tiny little scrap of that ancient neighborhood, and there was something poignant about that. They might have had folk living in it, parent to child, ever since the Fall. But there came a point when no amount of effort could save a thing, and surely this structure wouldn’t last another storm.

Erik pleaded the house’s case desperately, speaking quickly, as if speed would give his argument more weight. He knew what Enid and Teeg must be thinking. “Yes, it’s in poor shape, but . . . there’s nothing else like it. It’s lasted this long, it’d be a shame to let it go to ruin now. Wouldn’t it?” He kept his voice steady, but his eyes shone with anxiety.

He was younger than Enid had expected. The head of a household wasn’t necessarily the oldest member, but had typically been around some time, maybe even earned a banner and raised a kid. He didn’t seem much older than Enid’s own thirty years. Lanky, angular, he had skin the shade of teak and close-shaved brown hair.

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The Wild Dead 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
CaptainsQuarters 4 months ago
Ahoy there me mateys!  I received this sci-fi dystopian murder mystery eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  While I try to post no spoilers, if ye haven’t read the first book then ye might want to skip this post. If ye keep reading this log then ye have been forewarned and continue at yer own peril . . . I previously read and was absolutely enthralled by the first book.  This one was great too!  Both stories are set "after the fall" in the coastal United States.  The coast has flooded.  Cities have fallen.  The world is slowly rebuilding.  The novel follows Enid, a young Investigator who helps police the towns along the Coastal Road.  That job involves anything from helping people in the aftermath of storms, to arbitrating disputes, or in this case, doing a property inspection to see if the town should repair it.  Teeg is in charge of his first mission and Enid is there to mentor him.  What is a fairly simple assignment becomes much more difficult when a dead body turns up.  And it is certainly murder.  Can the two investigators find the killer?  Or should they just leave it alone? The first story was structured around Enid's life both past and present with the murder being only part of the story.  The murder mystery is at the forefront of book two and the majority of the story takes place in the present.  Enid uses many of her experiences from the previous murder investigation to help her outlook in this one.  Teeg is her foil in the case.  Enid struggles to find her balance in her dual roles of investigator and teacher. As in the first book, the murder mystery was less interesting to me than the settlement set-up in the far reaches of the territory.  I loved the marshland setting.  I loved getting to see more of the people who live in the Wild.  I loved the continuing explorations of the bigger issues of society such as resources, the roles and expectations of various types of outsiders, and the ideas of truth and justice.  I loved watching Enid's investigative techniques. The author manages another book where there is an overall optimistic outlook in the aftermath of a dystopia.  I would love to have Enid on me crew.  I would also love another book in the series either about Enid or a companion novel about another settlement along the Coast Road.  Give me more!   Arrrr!
besu 7 months ago
I read Bannerless last year and was surprised in a good way at Ms. Vaughns departure from her other series. In the dystopian world of The Wild Dead (Bannerless book 2) the story line is very similar to the first book in that Enid is tasked with investigating a murder but it more intricately examines the many aspects of societal and governmental controls. Without offering any spoilers, this story illustrates the problems associated with excessive government control including control of reproductive rights. In many instances that control is good for society and child bearing is only offered to households that can prove that they can be productive and sustainable within their living units. Surplus goods are not allowed and they must live on the barter system. If you don't live within these confines you are not allowed to trade at the sanctioned markets or live in the approved villages. These households are not thriving but for the most part, they seem to get by harmoniously. When people are living away from these approved villages, they are considered wild and savagelike. Enid is investigating the murder of a "wild" girl and during her investigation, contrary to popular belief, discovers that these wild societies can survive without government controls and although the people live quite primitively they are living a civil existance. This tale shows that the governments choices are not always for the best and is a cautionary tale about giving up rights to the government. Thanks to NetGalley, the quthor and the publisher for giving me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Quitterstrip 8 months ago
Investigator Enid is back on the case! A year has passed since the Pasadan case and it is time to move on to something easier. Freedom-loving Enid is having a hard time leaving Serenity House. Olive is due with the household's first child, and Enid desperately wants to be a part of it. With duty on the line, she promises her housemates to be back as soon as she can, pleading in whispers to the baby to stay put until she's home. Enid travels to the wayward station to pick up her new partner, Teeg, before heading on to assignment, but not without warning. Teeg is fresh out of training and his trainer is full of concerns regarding his patience and quick temper. Enid akes the advice under consideration, hoping to use this simple case as a great learning opportunity. The pair is headed as far north as the Coast Road will take them- The Estuary. A place that "rarely exceeded quota because there isn't enough to begin with", that rarely earn a banner, which means they are missing out on that younger generation taking over households and responsibilities in the future. The Estuary deemed themselves "a loose collection of households whose members preferred to rely on themselves and one another" essentially eliminating the need for a committee but also putting the community at risk for involving investigators in senseless mattes, such as restoring a pre-Fall house. As soon as Enid and Teeg see the structure in question they know it will be n open and shut case. For the sake of how long it took them to travel out here, they give the place a chance and do a thorough investigation. They gather information from interviews of surrounding households with the consensus being that it was a waste of resources. Years of storms have washed away the foundation making it literally stand precariously in the air. The building itself is "held up by nails, twine, and hope." There isn't enough hope in the world that could keep that structure standing, but the owner wants to keep a family promise. Enid decides to brave the house and take a walkthrough while Teeg stands guard. The inside reflects the disastrous outside. Walls are gone, the floorboards are unstable, and Enid discovers a pile of trash in the corner. Needing something to focus on other than judgment, Enid discovers the pile of trash is actually a worn blanket hiding a satchel containing flint and steel, undeniable proof a squatter frequents the teetering house. The owner of the house doesn't seem a bit surprised by this and explains that wild folk occasionally come down out of the woods to trade supplies, it was probably one of them. Just as Enid and Teeg are gearing up to deliver their judgment, they are interrupted by a feral scream coming from the marshlands, prime hunting grounds for scavengers. The man is running towards them like he's being chased by the devil. Through his exasperated breaths, they are able to hear he has stumbled upon a woman’s dead body in the marsh. Naturally having investigators present, Enid and Teeg run the trajectory back to where the body is located. They confirm the community’s greatest fear that it was a murder and not an accidental death. The Estuary folk want to know the judgment on the house. They try and persuade the investigators the murder isn’t worth looking into, only making Enid question the situation more. And people want to know if they are being judged due to the cloudy past of a single woman twenty years ago. What is everyone hiding?
readers_retreat 10 months ago
I adored "Bannerless" when it came out last July so when this popped up I quickly requested an ARC to read and review. "The Wild Dead" is the second in the exciting Bannerless series, I am not surprised that "Bannerless" won the Philip K. Dick award and predict good things for this sequel. I would say that in order to get the best out of this book you really need to have read the series opener. That way you are privy to the characters development and background which always helps in increasing your enjoyment of a story. That said, I do think that this would work as a standalone too. "The Wild Dead" is well-crafted and plotted to perfection with a pace to it that propels you through to the end in record time. I found this super-difficult to put down as I wanted to know what the conclusion would be. I enjoyed catching up with Enid when she's called to what appears to be a simple property dispute but turns into a murder investigation as the body of a young woman is found. Teeg, Enid's partner, wants to leave well alone but Enid feels she has a duty to investigate and to get to the bottom of the matter. They soon realise that the body belongs to a woman who to them is an outsider and does not belong to their community. Enid is a tenacious and brave main character that I hope to see more of in the next book. Vaughn's post-apocalyptic/dystopian world is unlike anything i've read before from the science fiction genre. This is such a unique tale - a murder mystery that takes place in a dystopian world where there are no real rules making it a challenging environment in which to live. The most important thing is that it actually works and Vaughn pulls it off easily. A thought-provoking read that will stay with me for a long time, I also appreciate that this book deals with some deeper topics such as feminism and morality so it is not just a throwaway story, it has deeper meaning behind it. Definitely an author to add to my favourites. I look forward to the next book and returning to this original world. A worthy five-star read! Many thanks to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/John Joseph Adams/Mariner Books for an ARC. I was not required to post a review and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.
reececo331 10 months ago
The Wild Dead (The Bannerless Saga #2) by Carrie Vaughn Since I read Bannerless, I wanted to see more of this story, Carrie Vaughn fulfilled the promise of the first book in this sequel. The Wild Dead can stand on its own as a young adult mystery story, but the whole series is amazing. This post apocalyptic world looks at the value we place on others. In a world were survivors had to choose between medicine and forensics, between lives and photography people and society has closed down. Small communities of people who work together for the benefit of each other is the only way to survive in this holocaust world. We have pushed the environment beyond sustainability, and we have been trumped by our own behaviors and consequences of them. The survivors have to prove that they can sustain not only their lives but have to prove they can take care of each child. The world can not support large groups of people, it’s either survival or starvation. Enid is an investigator in a time when life is held on a precarious balance, and the simple choices can cost the most. She has been called down to look at the Estuary and resolve one of their problems. Semperfi household has a big problem, their original structure is disintegrating before their eyes, falling into the eroding banks of the river. They want the community to help them, the community sees it a different way. This is not the only mystery in the pages of Wild Dead, but this first question brings up the idea of what is human, what is sustainable, and how do we treat each other. This is a great story that shows the value in life, and the ability to choose freely has its own cost. These are valuable lessons for our kids today, and something most schools and teachers avoid talking about. Carrie Vaughn brings up these ideas without judgement on the part of the reader, but on the whole of societies, and individuals outlooks. A great book for discussion with middle school, and high school children.