Pros: Moves beyond the post-apocalyptic basics
Cons: A bit, well, scattered
Rating: 4 out of 5
The Scattered and the Dead Series: The First Four Books, by L.T. Vargus, gives us a plague-stricken world thrown into the dark ages by a nuclear response to the fast-moving biological threat. The population has been vastly depleted, and even years afterward civilization is in tatters. The narrative follows a variety of characters across a spectrum of time periods before and after the nuclear strike. It’s a bit confusing to go back and forth like that all over the place, but I think ultimately it works.
Sometimes there’s a bit of sameness to the character voices; several of the characters are unusually aware of their own physicality and physical actions/reactions. It’s a bit weird. The characters have some nice depth, though, and sometimes surprise the reader. Current post-apocalyptic fiction still often focuses so intensely on the basics–survivalism, largely–that it’s nice to find a book that develops the depth of plot and character necessary in fiction in general. Most sub-genres follow this pattern, starting out as sketches and basics and then gradually developing into fully-fledged fiction with all of the necessary elements for a good story. Unlike some of the recent books I’ve read, Vargus’s The Scattered and the Dead makes that transition.
I like some of the details. There’s a prepper whose preparations come to naught because he gets hit by the plague, and given the odds, that should happen more often than not. It’s been a bit weird to read post-apocalyptic after post-apocalyptic in which both the prepper and all of his family members mysteriously turn out to be immune; after a while it beggars belief. Another nice detail: there may be some serious perverts in here, but at least it doesn’t depict every male as a rampant rapist and every female as a would-be victim.
Vargus’s work is a bit rough around the edges, but I like the story and characters. If you like the genre it’s worth giving this series a read.