Today’s team review is from Barb, she blogs at http://barbtaub.com/
Barb has been reading Crossing Bedlam by Charles Yallowitz
Can I just start out by paying homage to Charles Yallowitz for his prescience in setting his dystopian fantasy in a post-apocalyptic America—now known as the Shattered States—where the country has giant walls across their borders, allows no immigration, and has been cut off from the rest of the world? “These people believe that this is how the Shattered States should be,” Cassidy explains when she gets back inside […] “Though I’m guessing these people always wanted to be extremely violent and found this to be a great excuse.” (And to think— he wrote it before The Donald even won his first primary!)
The story involves a cross-country road trip through a post-apocalyptic America full of homicidal maniacs, religious fanatics, and the occasional killer rhino. Cassidy is trying to make it to San Francisco because her mother’s dying wish was to have her ashes scattered from the Golden Gate Bridge. She raids a maximum security prison to obtain properly murderous bodyguards. Unfortunately one of them, a serial killer named Lloyd, murders the rest of her recruits before she can explain the plan. The two then head across the country, where they face new danger at every turn. Along the way, their dependency on each other shifts to a wary friendship (if you have the kind of friends who might kill you at any moment…).
There was so much to like in this book. The structure—a road trip moving from state to state—lent itself to organization and steady pacing. I enjoyed the way that Lloyd believed he was living a story that pierced the fourth wall (between the book and the audience). It was a terrific device, because it allowed Cassidy to preserve the narrative flow (by assuming that it was just an example of Lloyd being nuts), while the author is able to present some information about the characters and their respective roles. “That just screams main characters in a story to me. I mean, most people exist without an adventure. They’re born, grow up, work, have sex, have kids, and die with nothing more than photo albums left behind. The two of us are doing something amazing. All of the stories I read in jail had people doing stuff like this, so it makes sense that we’re characters.”
Cassidy points out that if they are characters, then they are not in charge of their own destiny, not to mention the fact that their creator has put them into a nasty situation. “That’s too depressing to think about considering this creator would also be the one who destroyed our world. A real bastard if you ask me.”
The dialog was full of snarky one-liners and quips. And I couldn’t help liking Lloyd, who I pictured as a combination of Doc Brown from Back to the Future and Hannibal Lecter. I found Cassidy (who was simply referred to with annoying frequency as “the blonde”), to be somewhat less three-dimensional or likeable.
On the other hand, there were things that drove me nuts, from the editorial fails to the cover that looks like something drawn by a ten year old in a bad mood because his teacher didn’t let him draw a jet and Spiderman in too (a surprise because the author’s covers are usually drop-dead gorgeous). But my biggest problem is the two main characters. They seem to evolve over the course of their odyssey, but I don’t really see it happening. Instead, we’re simply informed that now they are friends. I would have liked to know more about what they are thinking and feeling.
I already know from his other work that Charles Yallowitz has a flair for action and adventure. I know from Crossing Bedlam that he can be darn funny. Apparently, he can also write four letter words with the best of them. I’d like to see another (edited!) adult-targeted book that gets inside the characters’ heads and shows us what they are thinking instead of just what they are cursing.