Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Dead Lands by Benjamin Percy

The Dead Lands by Benjamin Percy

I have fallen in love with a new author and his name is Benjamin Percy.  He has written this awesome book about the Lewis and Clark expedition that has been re-imagined, 150 years into the future in a post-apocalyptic America.

The Dead Lands is a place that exists outside the wall that surrounds St. Louis.  There are giant spiders that feed on criminals, and creatures morphed by the nuclear fallout.  There is disease and famine and a lack of water and resources.  People are forbidden to travel outside the wall unless you are one of the guard.  Mina Clark is one of the guard who longs to leave St. Louis and find a better place.  A place with fresh water and green grass and opportunities for a better life.

Inside the wall, St. Louis is called The Sanctuary.  The Sanctuary is stifled and repressed by Lewis Meriweather's former friend Thomas, whom is a selfish leader who indulges himself at the expense of his people. Lewis is the museum curator and keeper of knowledge.  He is odd and people tend to leave him alone.  Some think he has magical powers.

One day, a strange young girl named Gawea approaches the wall on horseback.  She has a unique appearance, with tanned skin and large dark pupils.  The guards on the wall are afraid and shoot at her and she is gravely injured.  She carries a secret message for Lewis.  Clark tries to protect her and plans to save her from impending death, because Thomas wants her hung in public as an example of the dangers outside of the wall.

Lewis and Clark with Gawea as their guide escape The Sanctuary and head West into the unknown.

The Dead Lands is a history teacher's dream, an odyssey of history and culture of a new America.  I kept comparing what happened in the 1800's to the futuristic America portrayed in the pages of The Dead Lands.  And it works.  The journey of Lewis and Clark is a quest of epic proportions that will keep you turning the pages late into the night.

Like all great Odyssey stories there are monsters to fight and weather storms to battle and beautiful, dangerous women to lead the party astray.  There is slavery and violence and environmental concerns and mutant creatures and people eating polar bears, oh my.  I love Odyssey stories or stories of the hero's journey.  I love, love, love, The Dead Lands.  I was riveted to the page and enjoyed the fantastical elements as well as the historical ones.

Percy has created a cast of creative characters that parallel history for a modern era. I loved that Clark is a woman and Lewis has magical powers.  I loved all the characters, they are flawed and lovable. Reading this book was so much fun for me.  If you know your history there are secret messages and historical tidbits in The Dead Lands for you to uncover.

Dare to enter The Dead Lands and travel on the wild side with Lewis and Clark.