(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)
A fatal virus—a biowarfare experiment unleashed on an unsuspecting world—has reduced the once-mighty United States to a smattering of tribes dueling for survival in the lawless wilderness. The disease-free folk known as Settlers barricade themselves in small villages, determined to keep out the highly contagious Spewers—infected humans who cannot die from the virus but spread the seeds of death from the festering blisters that cover their bodies.
Tanner Kline is a trained Sweeper, sworn to exterminate Spewers roaming the no-man’s-land surrounding his frightened community. As all Settlers do, Tanner dismisses them as little more than savages—until he meets his match in Spewer protector Lila. But when hunter and hunted clash, their bloody tango ignites a firestorm of fear and hatred. Now, no one is safe from the juggernaut of terror that rages unchecked, and the fate of humanity hangs on questions with no answers: Who’s right, who’s wrong . . . and who’s going to care if everyone’s dead?
[Full disclosure: I received a free ebook through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]
Whatever my expectations were starting Apocalyptic Organ Grinder, they were blown away within a few chapters. William Todd Rose packed so much into this novella that I hardly know where to start.
Let’s start off with his world-building. It was fascinating, terrifying and worst of all, believable. The divide between the Spewers, the people infected with a horrible disease who pass it onto healthy people and the healthy people is realistic. Spewers are outcasts to be put down like animals upon sight by Sweepers like Tanner, who will do anything to keep their friends and family safe. Yet the atrocities aren’t limited to the uninfected because the Spewers’ hands aren’t clean either in this war. I love how in Apocalyptic Organ Grinder both sides are relatively ambiguous; it’s left up to the reader to decide for themselves who’s good and who’s evil. Personally, I decided both sides are a mixture of good and evil.
Both Tanner and Lila were fascinating characters. Tanner will do anything, which includes kill Spewers, in order to protect his little girl back at the settlement. He does have a guilty conscience and wrestles with it and it’s that struggle that brings Apocalyptic Organ Grinder to its horrifying conclusion. His hands are certainly not clean and we do feel more sympathy for Lila, the Spewer who only wants to protect her family and her tribe from Sweepers like Tanner. Since we get to see things from both perspectives we’re left to judge the characters by their actions and internal struggles.
The plot was fast-paced in this little novella and I read the whole thing in one sitting. Reading a book in one sitting is not unusual for me as my regular readers will know, but frantically flipping the pages to do so is. William Todd Rose certainly knows how to create suspense in a limited number of pages. He is also quite even-handed with the perspective switches so that we get enough switches to understand both sides of the story but not so many as to become confusing or annoying. In short, Apocalyptic Organ Grinder may not have a completely unique premise, but it does have awesome characters, great world-building and suspense.
I give this book 4.5/5 stars.