I received this book for free from Netaglley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Withered + Sere by T.J. Klune
Published by DSP Publications on April 19th 2016
Genres: Non-Fantasy, Futuristic
Format: e-Book, ARC
Amazon, Barnes & Noble
Once upon a time, humanity could no longer contain the rage that swelled within, and the world ended in a wave of fire.
One hundred years later, in the wasteland formerly known as America, a broken man who goes only by the name of Cavalo survives. Purposefully cutting himself off from what remains of civilization, Cavalo resides in the crumbling ruins of the Northern Idaho Correctional Institution. A mutt called Bad Dog and a robot on the verge of insanity comprise his only companions. Cavalo himself is deteriorating, his memories rising like ghosts and haunting the prison cells.
It’s not until he makes the dangerous choice of crossing into the irradiated Deadlands that Cavalo comes into contact with a mute psychopath, one who belongs to the murderous group of people known as the Dead Rabbits. Taking the man prisoner, Cavalo is forced not only to face the horrors of his past, but the ramifications of the choices made for his stark present. And it is in the prisoner that he will find a possible future where redemption is but a glimmer that darkly shines.
The world has died.
This is the story of its remains.
Withered + Sere was so different from what I normally read from a genre-perspective (post apocalyptic, mental health, and cannibalism are not my normal go-to topics), but I am so glad I tried it! I read this after reading Kristen’s review of it over at Metaphors and Moonlight. Then I went and snagged a copy from Netgalley because #poor. So thanks, Netgalley! For enabling me broadening my reading topics. 🙂
I cannot imagine living in this world.
I mean, now that I’ve read this book, I can imagine it. And I kind of wish I couldn’t imagine it. Basically, the human race has destroyed the world, and life is holding on by threads. The first scene where we meet Cavalo actually involves him hunting a deer with some serious radiation-caused mutation. (You know: an extra (useless) leg, some awesome-sounding tumors, the works). He then ends up having to evade cannibals (“Dead Rabbits”).
The whole book kind of spirals out of that scene. And it’s strange to read because you don’t actually understand why Cavalo is doing the things he’s doing. But that’s ok, because Cavalo doesn’t understand why either. He’s insane, after all, and we’re experiencing the insanity with him.
Withered + Sere really explores the idea of sanity. Or lack thereof.
Cavalo is, obviously, insane. He hears voices and calls them bees. He randomly chases after his dead son. He has conversations with people he feels responsible for being dead. He talks to his dog, and his dog talks back. He knows that all of these things aren’t real, but he still hears/sees/does them anyway.
And honestly? I’m not convinced that they’re all fake. Even though I know that they must be? I feel as stuck with them as he does.
But it’s not just about Cavalo’s insanity. We also have some hefty interaction with an insane robot called SIRS. (SIRS is awesome, by the way; I love him. Can I have a SIRS?).
And, even more interestingly, is the Dead Rabbit who can’t talk. Cavalo ends up having full-blown, two-sided conversations with him. He’s not sure if the Dead Rabbit’s “words” are made-up in Cavalo’s head, or if he really is able to understand what the Dead Rabbit is saying. But these “conversations” end up involving the idea that everyone has bees; Cavalo’s are just louder sometimes. (At least, that’s how I read into it; I don’t know if that was the point).
When you think about it; isn’t that really true? We all have moments of insanity. Some of us are just better at ignoring them.
Everything repeats itself.
This is an idea that’s introduced right at the beginning of the book. I still don’t know how that first opening scene totally plays into the rest of the book. The words that would have given us more explanation were cut off rather abruptly by a nuclear bomb. But it did introduce a theme of repetition, and that idea was repeated (tee hee; sorry) a couple of times throughout the book.
The one thing that kind of bugged me? I didn’t actually see much in the way of outright repetition in events yet. I get the sense that we’re going to learn more on that front in the second book though.
I’m glad I read it; you should too!
I’m not sure that I’ll read the sequel right away (I’ve been struck by an overwhelming need to read some fluffy books now), but I do intend to eventually. As books that break me out of my fantasy niche go, this one was certainly a good decision!