Jun 14, 2019

 

Book Review - By the Feet of Men (by Grant Price)

Title: By the Feet of Men
Series: -
Author: Grant Price
Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopia, Post-Apocalyptic, Action-Adventure
Publisher: Cosmic Egg Books
Release Date: August 30th, 2019
Format: Paperback
Pages: 344




"WANTED: Men and women willing to drive through the valley of the shadow of death.

The world's population has been decimated by the Change, a chain reaction of events triggered by global warming. In Europe, governments have fallen, cities have crumbled and the wheels of production have ground to a halt. The Alps region, containing most of the continent's remaining fresh water, has become a closed state with heavily fortified borders. Survivors cling on by trading through the Runners, truck drivers who deliver cargo and take a percentage. Amid the ruins of central Germany, two Runners, Cassady and Ghazi, are called on to deliver medical supplies to a research base deep in the Italian desert, where scientists claim to be building a machine that could reverse the effects of the Change. Joining the pair is a ragtag collection of drivers, all of whom have something to prove. Standing in their way are starving nomads, crumbling cities, hostile weather and a rogue state hell-bent on the convoy's destruction. And there's another problem: Cassady is close to losing his nerve."


By the Feet of Men
(click to read an excerpt on Amazon)

- Review -
What Made Me Read It
I was sent a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. The author described it as a "dystopian climate fiction novel"; even though the genre is usually a little too grim and dark for my taste, the focus of this novel seemed to be more on the characters and not so much the post-apocalyptic setting, so I gave it a try.
 

The Plot
The Change has driven the planet back to the Dark Ages. In a post-apocalyptic world where desertification, drought, famine and disease run rampant, civilization has collapsed and infrastructures have all but disappeared. Humanity has reversed to a state of savagery, with survivors knifing each other in the back for half a canteen of radiated water and depending on Runners to barter and deliver scarce supplies.
 

Edward Cassidy has been a Runner for over 20 years, driving his century-old pantech Warspite between isolated and heavily defended settlements inside the Bowl, transporting crates of expired food and water in what was once Germany. Until the day a badly wounded man offers him a contract: to deliver urgent medical supplies to La Talpa, a research facility hidden underground in the deserts of Italy.

To increase the odds of success, 4 teams of Runners are selected for the job. The crew of the Silkworm, Victor and Tagawa, is too inexperienced; the crew of the Telamonian, Brandt and Renfield, is getting too old; and Orion's own Katarina and Hearst don't look out for anybody but themselves. It's up to Cassady and his co-driver and mechanic partner Salam Ghazi to lead the convoy of Runners through the Bowl and into uncharted territory deep inside the Alps.
 

Cassady needs to be ready for everything this run throws at him: extreme temperatures, unwanted attention from scavengers and tribal bandits, damaged roads and people who want the convoy to fail - the fanatic religious group Zuisudra, bent on cleansing the Earth of the disease that is humanity, and the Koalition, a merge of corporations determined to maintain an iron grip control over their region. But he's losing his nerve and starting to question everything he does and the reason that keeps him going...
 

The Good
"By the feet of men" is a dystopian novel set in post-apocalyptic Germany, known as the Bowl, in an unspecified (but probably not too far off) future. Throughout the story we're given just enough details about the world the characters live in to get a general idea of the background: a desertified region, where the food is scarce and the few water sources are most likely contaminated by radiation, under extreme heat and an ionized atmosphere, where major cities have been destroyed by conflict and covered in mutant vegetation. We're not told about the events what led to this calamity, only that after something called the Change humanity has reversed to a savage state, struggling to survive each day in the unforgiving environment in small isolated but well-defended settlements, banded together in nomadic violent gangs and fanatical religious groups, frequently resorting to cannibalism. The Runners, men and women driving old reconditioned armored trucks called pantechs, keep the communities going by transporting essential supplies through the few existing roads. Still, the lack of details doesn't harm the narrative since the focus of the novel isn't on the post-apocalyptic setting but the characters instead.
 

The book follows the journey of a convoy of Runners, contracted to deliver much needed medical supplies to a group of scientists working in secret on technology that could reverse the Change, giving humanity a second chance at life. The plot is fast-paced, with plenty of nerve-racking action sequences as the convoy faces innumerous dangers and foes on its run through the Bowl and across the Alps: bandits and scavengers who murder and cannibalize weary travelers, the religious fanatics Zuisudra and the corporation Koalition determined to keep its iron grip on the Zone, a fortified region in the Alps with a bio-engineered pre-Change climate.
 

"By the feet of men" is mostly a road trip character study novel. Each of the 8 Runners that make up the convoy are 3-dimentional and fully fleshed out, with believable personalities and realistic behaviors and reactions. Edward Cassidy has been driving his century-old pantech, the Warspite, for over 20 years; being a Runner has given him a purpose but now he's struggling to find a reason to keep going and survive another day. His co-driver and mechanic Salam Ghazi is the philosophical type, trying to find his place in the grand scheme of things. They've been tasked to lead the convoy, a ragtag group of misfit truck drivers put together on a run with little chance of success: Brandt and Renfield are old veterans in their pantech Telamonian but they're getting too old, too slow and cautious and want to get off the road for good; Victor and Tagawa are newcomers and still too inexperienced, but desperate to prove their worth driving the Silkworm; Hearst turned driving the Orion into an art form but she's too wild and only looks out for herself and her co-driver Katarina. As the story unfolds we get to know each of the Runners, their personal stories and what keeps them going; each character has his/her own flaws and personal demons, trying to survive to the best of their abilities in a desperate and cruel world, making good and bad choices and learning to live with them.
 

Long hours spent behind the wheel encourage each of the characters to reflect on basic questions about their existence and so the novel explores themes of self-sacrifice for the greater good, the meaning of life and its worth, moral and ethics, good and evil.

If you enjoy dystopian tales with good character development, that explore how humanity reacts in the face of adversity, struggling to survive in a ruined world, then this book delivers on its promise. The only reason I couldn't give it a higher rating is a matter of personal taste - it was just too brutal and depressing for me, with a too realistic portrayal of humanity at its worst, eerily believable and entirely too possible in the not so distant future. But that's just me.

Final Rating
"By the feet of men" is mostly a character study dystopian novel set in a future post-apocalyptic Germany, with fast-paced and action-packed sequences. Recommended for those who enjoy stories that focus on the struggles of a dying and savage humanity in a post-apocalyptic world.



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- About the Author -
Website: www.grantrhysprice.com
Twitter: @MekongLights
Genre: Literary Fiction, Short Stories, Dystopia, Post-Apocalyptic, Science-Fiction
 

Grant Price (b. 1987) is a British-German author currently living in Berlin, Germany. After spending too many years translating and writing copy, he started writing fiction full time in 2015. His first novel, Static Age, appeared on Kindle in 2016. His second novel, By the Feet of Men, is due to be published by Cosmic Egg Books in September 2019. His work has appeared in The Daily Telegraph and a number of magazines and journals. He has taught writing at the University of Gießen in Germany. 

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