North

North

Author
Frank Owen
ARRSE Rating
3 Mushroom Heads
This is a sequel to ‘South’ by the same author, which I have not read. The USA has been to war against itself in the 20th rather than 19th century and in this post - apocalyptic tale the South has again lost with biological agents being the war winner. This time there is a wall across the whole of the States separating the devasted ‘South’ from the surviving ‘North’. The Northern dictator, Reynard, continues to send biological agents in the wind over the wall which devastates the South into a subsistence level wasteland. There is no obvious time line and to me it appears the North has not progressed from, or has regressed to, the 70s/80s. Thirty years have passed since the end of the war, long enough for a generation in the south to only know about cars and driving from the tales of their elders.

Dyce and Vida have managed to survive the horrors of the South. They have been saved from the pestilence seeded by the North’s wind by finding a colony called the Mouth, which has necrophilic mushrooms which cure the disease. They have decided that Reynard, the Dictator of the North, must be assassinated. Crossing the wall by the North Platte River in a storm, Vida is injured but they make contact with Buddy, a member of the Northern Resistance. and head to Des Moines.

They are followed independently by Felix Calahan, who gets picked up by Adams, and the psychotic Kurt Calahan – who travels alone, the last survivors of the Calahan clan. Kurt Calahan kills four people within 24 hours and the first quarter of the book; all people who help him.

All make their way to Des Moines, which is pretty much an uninhabited wasteland (Has anyone told Bill Bryson?) in contrast to life just north of the wall which appears to be a functioning, though regressed urban community.

A lot of the verbal action takes place in the Capitol Building of Des Moines; the seat of the Northern Resistance. Adams is revealed as the leader and it turns out that the ‘good guys’ are not particularly good. They try to cultivate mushrooms from spores taken north by Dyce and Vida and this leads to some fairly unusual and grotesque methods, and are successful in the end. Dyce and Vida discover they have something to offer Reynard which may entice him into the open for an assassination attempt. Adams decides that an assault on the North’s Biological agent factory in Chicago should happen at the same time. Any further telling of the plot would give the story away, so I’ll stop here.

The chapters are mostly short and snappy, and while there are 66 of them the story tends to move quickly, but I do not find the story credible and am unable to disconnect from reality in this book.

It is not a stand-alone book to be read on its own; it is a sequel and ‘South’ must be read first. There is some back-story to help, but it doesn’t fill all the gaps. In the past I have read sequels before and managed to connect; in this case I have no real wish to read ‘South’. It is unlikely there will be a sequel, though there may be room for a prequel to ‘South’.

A grudging 3 mushroom heads – mushrooms being central to the story.

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