Scavenger’s War is the first book of The Marlowe Transmissions by Jack Sheppard. It’s a short post-apocalyptic science fiction novella that left me with very mixed feelings.
Desmond Marlowe is a man who has been traveling a long time through the former United States, which is now a wasteland populated by pockets of people and the scavengers, a race of part human, part technological beings who prey on people for energy. There are a few city-states, and Dez is on his way to one of them, Detroit. Detroit is a fortress ruled by dictator Terrence McHale. Dez meets his daughter, and everything goes to hell for him.
The story is an interesting take on the post-apocalyptic genre, as there was no war, no alien invasion, no nuclear bomb, no asteroid impact, no disease. It’s the result of a well-meaning attempt to expand the mind’s abilities. People have telekinetic abilities, but it has resulted in people thinking they’re invincible, so the world became an anarchy. War spread and the land was devastated. This isn’t much of a spoiler, as it’s explained very early on, including in the book’s description. It was an intriguing idea. But I felt that there were some aspects that didn’t work for me.
The characters didn’t click with me. Dez Marlowe seemed like a seasoned veteran of this dark future’s battles. However, I couldn’t get the image that he was a young man for most of the book. He was not even described until the final third of the book. I didn’t know what he looked like or how old he was. When he was finally described, my image of him was completely wrong. We didn’t get to see much of Terrence McHale, but his daughter was central to the story. Layla McHale seemed both spoiled and naive. But she had to grow quickly. I felt like I didn’t get enough time to like her. There was some good characterisation, particularly with Huginn. I liked him.
The technology is also interesting. The scavengers seemed almost like animals acting on instinct, with only a remnant of their humanity remaining. Some of the weapons that relied on mind control were intriguing, too. The brain and technology interface was all telekinetic, not using a direct physical connection. I liked that.
This story is told in first person using present tense. This is a difficult way to write a book, and I found it somewhat jarring. At one point, this was described as a transmission of Marlowe’s experience. Wouldn’t he be talking about it in past tense? I wasn’t sure why it was in present tense. I’m not a fan of this kind of writing style. This was the biggest problem for me. But that’s just my personal taste.
Overall, I felt that this story had potential to be very good. However, there were many things that didn’t make it as enjoyable as I’d have liked. I am interested in seeing how it continues, though. In the end, I have to give this 2 and a half stars out of 5. Recommended for those who like post-apocalyptic stories with a twist.