Books 1-3 of the Wasteland Saga (also published under the title American Wasteland)
Salvaging the ruins of a broken world
I’ve had a not-so-secret addiction to post-apocalyptic (PA) novels since I first read Wyndham’s amazing The Day of the Triffids.* But the American Wasteland series will stay in my memory and be one of the few that I’ll remember for a long time. It’s comparable in some ways to Earth Abides, another all-time favorite.
* Although my interest in the daily life of people in extraordinary circumstances, cut off from the known world, probably started even earlier, with Robert Louis Stephenson’s Robinson Crusoe, but I digress…
I generally like when PA novels are more about people than “stuff”. How society evolves and how people act in extreme situations, rather than about technology, politics, economics, etc. (and for pity’s sake, spare me the damn gun porn). This saga is indeed about a wasteland, both physical and moral, and how people adapt to it.
I read all three novels of The Wasteland Saga consecutively, so it felt like one novel in three parts, that all fit and follow beautifully. The world building is superbly done, totally convincing. You feel you are right there with the characters, feeling the heat on your face and the dust in your eyes. I loved the way it was written, especially the technique of writing in both the first person and third person. I felt that in the third person I was closely observing the characters’ experience, and in the first person I was in their head, feeling it. I’ve never seen this done before (that I remember offhand) and it pulled me in very effectively.
The characterisation is very strong for some of the characters (especially the old man, the boy, Horse), while others didn’t really come alive for me, such as the granddaughter. But that didn’t really matter as the old man and the boy are the ones through whom you live the story. If anything, the fact that you almost see the other characters through a veil just serves to heighten the sense of isolation. The situation regarding General Watts is deftly handled, with the reveal coming at just the right time and with a terrific impact.
But what I liked most about these books was the mood and atmosphere. Moving, melancholy, even desolate but also hopeful and uplifting.
My only quibble is about time…. It is “only” 40 years after the world was destroyed but the way some groups of people behave would seem more appropriate after a lapse of many generations. It seems too soon to have such a level of social change. But I guess the author needed to keep the time short in order for some of the plot elements to work. Anyway, it was not enough to bother me much.
Find The Wasteland Sage on Amazon and at other bookstores.