Rivers by Michael Farris Smith
This was a damn interesting one. It’s a post-apocalyptic adventure, set in an alternate universe post-Katrina South. Relentless storms crushed the coast, and are continuing to rain down on the region. The US has declared everything south of an arbitrary line to be essentially forgotten wasteland. They offered sanctuary and buyouts to those folks still living below the line, and then they washed their hands of the holdouts. So everything has become a survivalist epoch — a zombie apocalypse, only the zombies are the soaked refugees trying to get by.
It’s quite imaginative and thought provoking. There’s no disease turning people into monsters except opportunity. The waterlogged become hermits, haunted by their own ghosts. Some folks tool around with pickup trucks and weapons, looking for a legendary treasure supposedly buried by some casino owner. Some run a black market trade in necessities — accepting money and running goods below the line in an old U-Haul. Some create their own biblical harem of captured women, trying to repopulate after the flood.
We follow a few characters — mainly Cohen, a man who lost his pregnant wife in the early days of the storms, and then who just stubbornly stayed on with his horse and his dog, tending to the home they left behind and the ghosts in the walls. Folks have compared this to Cormac McCarthy, and it’s a woeful tale to be sure, but possibly a little more accessible. If you’re looking for hope and happiness, you’re shit out of luck.
The story has a stuttery step to it, engaging and then drifting on memory and pace, and then ramping up, and then easing off. There was no point where I disliked it, but there were a few where I was just kind of drifting along waiting for the next terrible thing to happen — terrible in the tragic sense not the quality of the writing. I’m glad I stuck with it. While it wasn’t some kind of roller coaster dynamite ride, it was definitely more ponderous.