Orbit, out now
A post-apocalyptic world is no place to be a Kid on your own…
K.S. Merbeth’s debut novel is a hugely entertaining tale of a post-nuclear world where some people have broken what is often seen as the ultimate taboo and have eaten human flesh. Regularly. With a side order of beans. It’s a world that will be highly familiar to those who have seen the Mad Max series of movies – you can see the characters from the third and fourth films slotting easily into place in this environment, but this story is told from the point of view of those Max encounters rather than the former lawman.
The Kid (we never learn her proper name, and none of those around her are interesting in learning it) is in some ways your prototypical Young Adult heroine, thrown into a situation where everything challenges her and through force of circumstance she learns about the world and what her place in it is. Trouble is, in this world that means eating what those she is travelling with eats, and doing what they do to survive – which basically includes a lot of killing and maiming. That she does so and retains the reader’s empathy is a tribute to Merbeth’s writing, and the vividness of the characters that the author surrounds the Kid with – Wolf, Dolly, Pretty Boy and Tank. They sound like comicbook nicknames, and to an extent, they are comic book characters, certainly in terms of their dialogue, but each has some surprising sides.
It’s not a book for the faint of heart – people are killed and tortured in a wide variety of ways, and the cannibalism side isn’t shied away from. But it’s a wild ride, and you may well often find yourself grinning. I’m very intrigued to see where Merbeth takes the Kid and her friends next.
Verdict: A gruesome, exciting post-apocalyptic wild ride. 8/10