I wrote about Deadlands here.
The Mall Rats (Ash, Saint, Lele, and Ginger) are in trouble— their cover is blown and the revelation about what the Guardians do with young 'winners' of the lottery that was supposed to bring down the establishment is co-opted by the Resurrectionists. A trip back into the enclave almost ends in disaster with only unexpected assistance allowing them to escape back to the Deadlands.
Ash proposes that they leave the Cape Town area and look for other free survivors. Lele, ever the loose cannon is opposed and counters with impractical and foolish plans that would probably get them killed in short order. She reluctantly agrees to go along. The means to leave comes from another unlikely source and soon they are on motorcycles on the N2 heading toward Durban— a Zombie road trip! Ginger the genial giant exclaims.
I think that any post-apocalyptic event story requires a journey at some point. Stephen King's The Stand and Cormac McCarthy's The Road come to mind immediately. As road trips go, this is a good one, well suited to the intended audience (young adult), the characters themselves, and the arc the story is taking.
They do encounter pockets of humanity unaffected by the Resurrectionists and the Guardians and I am happy to say that we don't have the mask-wearing, bare chests criss-crossed with leather straps and medieval weapons descent into barbarity from Mad Max 2. We do get interesting adaptations that range from the almost normal, to the strange, the weird, the really weird, and the nasty. I give the authors full marks for imaginative, but not unlikely, scenarios displaying human response to an inconceivable event.
Everything is not harmonious with the Mall Rats. A group of strong-willed people travelling together is an inherently stressful environment and the conflicts add more dimension to the characters. We get jealousy, betrayal, a secret revealed, female-male relationship tensions, sympathy, and kindness. I was also amused to learn that the Mall Rats really are not that familiar with African wildlife.
The post-apocalyptic road trip often sees new companions join the group and that is deftly handled here. Ginger, the least complicated of the Mall Rats, gets them to accept a most unusual new member, one that brings a little lightness to the story. Other newcomers help drive the story forward.
The book ends with a staggering cliff-hanger that brings into question everything you think you learned in Deadlands and Death of a Saint. The Army of the Left is the next book and as soon as it is available I'm ordering it.
Obviously the Deadlands series can be enjoyed by grey-haired old-timers since I'm hooked but the main audience is young adult. There is no direct comparison to be made with The Hunger Games but I'll pull out the librarian reader advisory tactic and say "If you liked Hunger Games, you'll probably enjoy these books." Young people, post-apocalyptic world, fighting for survival. I think non-South African readers will enjoy a different environment; I was inspired to do some Googling myself as I read.
I have an extra copy of the first book, Deadlands, and plan to give it away as soon as I figure out a good way to handle it.
Lily Herne is the pseudonym of Sarah and Savannah Lotz, mother and daughter.