Welcome to the territory. Leave your metal behind, all of it. The bugs will eat it, and they’ll go right through you to get it…Don’t carry it, don’t wear it, and for god’s sake don’t come here if you’ve got a pacemaker.
The bugs showed up about fifty years ago–self-replicating, solar-powered, metal-eating machines. No one knows where they came from. They don’t like water, though, so they’ve stayed in the desert Southwest. The territory. People still live here, but they do it without metal. Log cabins, ceramics, what plastic they can get that will survive the sun and heat. Technology has adapted, and so have the people.
Kimble Monroe has chosen to live in the territory. He was born here, and he is extraordinarily well adapted to it. He’s one in a million. Maybe one in a billion.
I wanted to like this book a lot more than I did. The blurb had me going “Wow, that sounds fascinating!” Unfortunately, when all was said and done, the book didn’t live up to my expectations. Steven Gould did a good job telling the story of the book, but it’s not exactly the one I was expecting from the description.
Gould apparently based the character of Kimble Monroe on the titular character of Rudyard Kipling’s “Kim”, which I’ve never read, nor do I have any intention of reading. So I can’t comment on other reviewers allusions to or comparisons between the characters.
It was well-written, engaging, and the characters were believable. Although Kim was on the “well…… okay, I guess” side. A little bit of magic hand-waving and I could get from the street urchin to the master spy with some effort. Street kids are supposed to be nigh-invisible, and I could see him being a master of the observatory craft in trying to stay away from the Territorial Rangers. I liked how Gould referenced the Baker Street Irregulars at one point in the story, because that’s how I saw Kimble.
Once I got past the idea that the story I thought I was going to be reading – about the metal-eating bugs – was actually more of a sideplot, I could finally get into the novel. It was a good spy story, and the addition of the aikido made for an interesting twist. Ultimately, I was left wondering just what the deal was with the bugs. There was no real resolution there, just some vague references to other plot points that didn’t happen until the last two pages.
All in all, it was a good book, though I wish I’d bought the ebook instead of shelling out the $30 for it at the bookstore. Although at over $7 as an ebook, I’m not sure I would’ve done that, either. The blurb needs work to more accurately set the reader’s expectations, but it’s still a well-told story.
Originally published on moderndayhitchhiker.com.