Saturday, February 24, 2007

14. Cloud Warrior, Book 1 of the Amtrak Wars by Patrick Tilley

Cloud Warrior cover picture

Oh, I am in such turmoil! Our Post-apocalyptic lit expert at the Mount Benson Report recommended this book to me as being well respected in the PA community. It's part of a trilogy (which at this point seem inevitable if I am going to continue reading sci-fi). But I just went to the author's website and found it there are actually two trilogies! Oh, the reading ahead of me.

Anyways, this book rocked. Most of the PA I have read is sort of near-future disasters, things that could happen in our time (No Blade of Grass, Fugue for a Darkening Island, I Am Legend) or in a very near future (most of the Ballard books). The Amtrak Wars is big future PA, taking place 900 years after the fall, with tribes of mutants ("Mutes") on the surface and a growing community of militaristic pures living underground in a super disciplined society. The underground society is built around controlling myths and restricted information. The Mutes are blamed for the wars that destroyed the world and the whole society is geared around slowly expanding their territory on the surface, killing the Mutes (and sometimes enslaving them) as they go. The Federation (as the underground society is known) drives these giant wagon trains of super high tech battle buses and fly sorties from their roof, shooting down Mutes and dropping napalm on their fields.

The Mutes, at least the ones we see, have their own myths, which are much more spiritual. Though they suffer from physical (mainly deformities) and mental mutations (most have no memory), they have a rich tribal life, are powerful warriors and some of them have special "magical" abilities. Their spiritual leader is called a Wordsmith, because he is someone with a memory. It is the Wordsmith's job to remember the 900 years of their history and to pass this on to the next Wordsmith. There are also Seers, who can see the future in some objects, and Summoners, who can control shit with their minds.

The structure of the story is divided between Steve, a hotshot rookie pilot for the federation and Cadillac, a junior Wordsmith. Their two stories are told separately, until they come together.

I am totally into the setting. There is also tons of great action (with some pretty gruesome violence). The whole thing is really well thought out, with the mores of the tribe gradually revealed and the complexities of the Federation life as well. There is tons of mystery and I really want to find out more about what is going on behind this world. Finally, the whole thing has a mellow attitude at its core. The Mutes smoke weed and do mushrooms. You know they are the good guys.

I'm totally following this series.


Unknown said...

Awesome! I have known about the series but always been a bit intimidated because it looks to be sort of ongoing forever. Also, the covers seemed to fall into a sci-fi Mack Bolan kinda thing.

I am really excited to read the positive review and will look to find more of the series.


OlmanFeelyus said...

I agree with you on the cover. It is kind of off-putting. I probably would not have picked it up without your recommendation. Actually, the content has some ribaldy stuff that gives it a slight hint of those serialized books. There are some decent sex scenes and some serious gore. But I think overall, the whole thing holds up as a true work of the heart and not some money-making thing, which is I think what tends to distinguish good genre fiction from the Mack Bolan world.