What would happen to the world if a super flu began spreading rapidly? A super flu that killed within a matter of days? How far would countries go to keep it from entering their borders? In the world of The Dead Lands, the super flu begins in the United States and other countries are willing to nuke us in order to stop it before it goes any further.
There are survivors. St. Louis put up walls soon after the pandemic began and managed to survive the radiation that followed the nuclear strikes. They’ve survived 150 years behind the walls but the damage done to the environment is catching up with them. The Mississippi River is long gone and it’s been far too long since it’s rained — they are running out of water. And then a rider approaches and offers hope that a better life can be found outside the walls. A small group sets out.
I liked the survival aspect of the story. Maybe it’s because I’m a fan of The Walking Dead, but it made sense to me that a community would wall itself off in the event of a massive pandemic. It also made sense that such a community would face the types of challenges it does — and that after a period of time, some members of that community would want to explore the world outside. As the group travels, the reader is also introduced to different groups of people, with their own strategies for survival. For me, this was the strongest aspect of the book.
The mutations that came about from the radiation were a mixed bag. Some were believable, some were not. Eh.
The naming of the main characters — Meriwether Lewis, Wilhemina Clark and Gawea — just didn’t work for me. I don’t mind that the author’s goal was to reimagine the Lewis & Clark saga in a post-apocalyptic setting but I think the story would have been stronger without banging the reader over the head with that fact. Percy’s Lewis, Clark, and Gawea may be retracing famous footsteps but they are unique individuals with their own motivations. I know, I know, part of the message is that we aren’t all that unique in the scheme of things — we have always been our own worst enemies and our fellow humans have always been our biggest threat — BUT again, I don’t need that message written in ALL CAPS, BOLDED for good measure. Every reference to Lewis and Clark being guided by Gawea felt gimmicky and honestly, it pulled me out of the story by reminding me that I was being told a story.