Scavengers is a novel set in a post-apocalyptic North America. In the past a war or other significant event has forced the population to flee into South America. Eventually, future descendants repopulate North America in the ruins of a previous civilisation. This is where the “dregs” are first encountered – a sub-human species of bi-pedals.
Our story starts with the research project to discover why the dregs walled outside the city are not susceptible the same cancer that is eroding the city population. Thomas Martin, a brilliant anthropologist heads up the research project with his own secret agenda to validate his dangerously controversial theory that dregs are in fact humans and that their Neanderthal-like appearance and behaviour are the result of environmental factors. But a conspiracy to silence his research leads him to escape the city into the terrifying (to him) society of the dregs.
What follows is a fascinating exploration of a civilised, intelligent scientist being slowly and painfully integrated into a primitive and savage culture. This was the highlight of the story for me, a 4.5-to-5 star immersion into the breaking and remaking of an educated man into a scavenger, a hunter for his tribe – his people. This journey was unsettling at times and the simple brutality of life as a scavenger was often confronting, but I was riveted. It didn’t surprise me to find out that the author has a strong interest in anthropology. Martin starts as a scared and unresponsive non-participant, a position which echoes that of the captured dreg research subject at the start of the book. However, Martin slowly progresses to a respected and feared hunter by abandoning his humanity and embracing his role as a “boy” of the tribe’s lead hunter.
The city dwellers weren’t abandoned by the author with the exodus of Martin. Various characters connected to the anthropologist continue to struggle with progressively more evident conspiracies within the largely military power-base running the city. This side of the story wasn’t quite as enthralling as that of the scavengers, but it did give me the chance to explore some rather interesting personalities including Martin’s grandmother, his prior colleague Raymond and some rather more sinister power-brokers striving to maintain control over the citizenry.
I enjoyed the story and to where it eventually headed with only a few minor concerns along the way: a relationship between the head of the research institute and the leader of an underground resistance, fleshed out but never really progressing the plot; no resolution to why the scavengers had built a resistance to cancer; the continued obsession with Martin long after he’d vanished from the city and his supposed meaning both to the resistance and to those in power. However, these didn’t really detract from my overall enjoyment.
So why the low score? Unfortunately, for all its admittedly fine qualities, Scavengers suffers from a far simpler, and I would think avoidable problem – lack of proof-reading. I may not have caught everything as I read, but I highlighted over 140 errors. These errors ranged from incorrect pronouns, use of singular instead of plural, word substitution errors (‘there’ instead of ‘their’ for example) and verb tense issues. I have the impression not that the author has little command of the English language, but rather that the text was a draft that never received the proof-reading it deserved.
It actually saddens me a little that a story I consider to be quite strong and enjoyable would be marred by problems that should have been readily identified and fixed. I have a tolerance for errors from independent authors but only to a point and I can’t see how most of the problems I found wouldn’t have been highlighted by Microsoft Word or by a comparable word processor with built-in spelling and grammar checking.
The good news is that if these issues are corrected, I believe this to be a 4 star story that I would not hesitate to recommend to any non-squeamish lovers of post-apocalyptic fiction. The bad news is that any corrections made to this text will be too late for this review.
Price at the time of review: $2.99 US
Available: Amazon, Smashwords
Author site: http://www.welikehumans.com/
GoodReads page: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12436299-scavengers