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The Dead Lands
Cover of The Dead Lands
The Dead Lands
A Novel
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In Benjamin Percy's new thriller, a post-apocalyptic reimagining of the Lewis and Clark saga, a super flu and nuclear fallout have made a husk of the world we know. A few humans carry on, living in outposts such as the Sanctuary-the remains of St. Louis-a shielded community that owes its survival to its militant defense and fear-mongering leaders.
Then a rider comes from the wasteland beyond its walls. She reports on the outside world: west of the Cascades, rain falls, crops grow, civilization thrives. But there is danger too: the rising power of an army that pillages and enslaves every community they happen upon.
Against the wishes of the Sanctuary, a small group sets out in secrecy. Led by Lewis Meriwether and Mina Clark, they hope to expand their infant nation, and to reunite the States. But the Sanctuary will not allow them to escape without a fight.
In Benjamin Percy's new thriller, a post-apocalyptic reimagining of the Lewis and Clark saga, a super flu and nuclear fallout have made a husk of the world we know. A few humans carry on, living in outposts such as the Sanctuary-the remains of St. Louis-a shielded community that owes its survival to its militant defense and fear-mongering leaders.
Then a rider comes from the wasteland beyond its walls. She reports on the outside world: west of the Cascades, rain falls, crops grow, civilization thrives. But there is danger too: the rising power of an army that pillages and enslaves every community they happen upon.
Against the wishes of the Sanctuary, a small group sets out in secrecy. Led by Lewis Meriwether and Mina Clark, they hope to expand their infant nation, and to reunite the States. But the Sanctuary will not allow them to escape without a fight.
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About the Author-
  • Benjamin Percy is the author of the novels Red Moon and The Wilding, and two short story collections, Refresh, Refresh and The Language of Elk. His writing has appeared in Esquire, GQ, Time, Tin House and elsewhere. His honors include the Pushcart Prize, an NEA grant, the Plimpton Prize for Fiction, and a Whiting Award. Raised in the high desert of central Oregon, he lives in Minnesota.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from February 9, 2015
    A postapocalyptic America mired in political intrigues serves as the backdrop for this visionary thriller from Percy (Red Moon). Years after a super-flu and nuclear Armageddon have decimated civilization, the remnants of U.S. citizenry cower inside the Sanctuary, a foundering stronghold on the outskirts of St. Louis, the tyrannical leaders of which rule by fearmongering and intimidation. When a visiting emissary from Oregon proves that life flourishes elsewhere, bookish Lewis Meriwether and rugged Wilhemina Clark flee with an entourage of fugitives. They embark on a northwestern trek through the wilderness known as the Dead Lands, mirroring the historical exploration of America’s Louisiana Purchase. Percy throws a number of frightening obstacles in his adventurers’ way, including giant spiders, enormous predatory bats, and human slavers, but the greatest challenges his characters face are their own doubts about the future and their place in the society they are fleeing to. With its fluid integration of reflections on American values and freedoms into a near-future scenario whose dramas resonate with the contemporary zeitgeist, this novel is a reminder that the best speculative fiction speaks to the concerns and issues of its time. Agent: Katherine Fausset, Curtis Brown.

  • Kirkus

    April 1, 2015
    The world has been devastated by virulent flu and panic-induced nuclear war. In the former city of St. Louis, two visionaries prepare to leave the safety of their walled city, Sanctuary, and travel to Oregon with the mysterious guide Gawea. Their names are Lewis and Clark. While the characters and details of Percy's (Red Moon, 2013, etc.) novel are hardly original on the surface-corrupt new government that controls the people through fear; great unknown beyond the walls where monsters and lawless men roam; climate destroyed by human negligence-there exists, from the very first pages, a tension that engages interest. Much of this is due to Percy's clear, descriptive prose but also to the smaller elements of surprise that he builds into the narrative. The supernatural side of Lewis' character and the vulnerable love that Clark feels for her (yes, her) brother balance out the more expected episodes of mutant monsters and human cruelty. Cutting back and forth from the small band of travelers to the terrors and uprising in Sanctuary, Percy uses this to build suspense but also to develop relationships among the characters. There are moments during the journey that recall great fantasy classics like The Lord of the Rings, and deepened by the historical Lewis and Clark connection, this part is ultimately the more interesting, but there is a certain satisfaction that comes from the inevitable fall of the corrupt Sanctuary as well. The problem with post-apocalyptic novels, however, is that they are devilishly hard to end-and this one is no exception. The final chapter feels more like a punch line than a revelation. It's hard to imagine much positive change in this ravaged world, so how can the characters hold out hope? In a literary world peppered with post-apocalyptic novels, Percy's stands out.

  • Booklist

    Starred review from March 1, 2015
    Percy offers a tip of the hat to American explorers Lewis and Clark in this harrowing postapocalyptic thriller. After a flu pandemic, followed by nuclear war, decimates Earth's population and renders much of the land unlivable, the survivors, huddling together in a place called Sanctuary (formerly St. Louis), believe they are the last people alive on the planet. Their tyrannical leader, Mayor Thomas Lancer, uses fear and water rationing to cow the populace, so when a strange woman rides up to the gates, he wants her quickly killed. She has come to find Lewis Meriwether, museum curator and some say magician, and take him to Oregon, where there are other people and clean water. Fortunately for the original Lewis and Clark, their journey was not fraught with radioactive lands, human-size bats, and other dangers that reside in Percy's surreal landscape. Meriwether teams up with Mina Clark, a Sanctuary ranger, and several other characters as they secretly depart the city and head into the dead lands. Short chapters shift from character history to fast-paced action, and Percy uses his gift for literary horror, as seen in Red Moon (2013), to create a compelling and at times disturbing story that will leave readers wanting more.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2015, American Library Association.)

  • Library Journal

    November 1, 2014

    Pushcart/Whiting honoree Percy came to the fore with last year's Red Moon, exemplary of the literary, thriller, and sf blend we've been seeing. Here, postapocalypse, folks getting by in the Sanctuary (the remains of St. Louis) are surprised when a woman rushes in to report that in the West, civilization flourishes and crops grow. Unfortunately, there's also an army on the march that enslaves everyone it encounters. With a five-city tour.

    Copyright 2014 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Library Journal

    Starred review from February 15, 2015

    A century and a half after a deadly pandemic and nuclear exchange, what remains of St. Louis has become Sanctuary, a walled city surrounded by the desert known as the Dead Lands. The government is growing more oppressive as conditions worsen, and then a strange, black-eyed young woman rides out of the west claiming there is a green land where the rain falls and everything grows. The rulers of Sanctuary can't afford to allow hope into the metropolis, but a small group, including museum curator Lewis Meriwether and city guard Mina Clark, break out and head up the Missouri River to find this land of Oregon. Pursued by hunters from the city and surrounded by deadly dangers, both human and not, this small band of explorers must keep heading west until they discover just what is waiting for them on the shores of the Pacific. VERDICT Percy's sophomore outing (after the acclaimed Red Moon) is not only a compelling postapocalyptic adventure populated by fascinating characters but a clever riff on the Lewis and Clark expedition. Fans of Cormac McCarthy's The Road, Paolo Bacigalupi's Ship Breaker, and Emily St. John Mandel's Station Eleven will embrace this literary vision of humanity's first steps back up the ladder of civilization after near-extinction disasters. [See Prepub Alert, 10/13/14.]--Dan Forrest, Western Kentucky Univ. Libs., Bowling Green

    Copyright 2015 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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A Novel
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