The Savage

Frank Bill. FSG Originals, $15 trade paper (400p) ISBN 978-0-374-53441-7
This gleefully bloody tale from Bill (Donnybrook) tells the brutish, apocalyptic story of working-class Southern Indiana towns, the same physical setting as his previous books but set years later. Here, a near-future America has given way to anarchy, and numerous societal ills—the loss of manufacturing jobs; the devaluing of the dollar,;the destruction of the national power grid; a drug epidemic; the desolation of towns and communities; and the domination of roving, warring clans—have ravaged the nation and left the residents of rural Hoosier country desperate. Van Dorn Reisling, a young man versed in the “old ways” of hunting and tracking, tries to find his way: surviving the violence between warring clans, exacting revenge on “foreigners” who have plundered Indiana, and coming to the aid of those enslaved by these brutal militias. Van Dorn and the other characters are mere vehicles for scene after desensitizing scene of gratuitous violence; the narrative is so full of exuberant descriptions of splattered brains and bone, cannibalism, scalping, torture, and rape that there’s little room for character development or prolonged suspense. With only a cursory set-up of America’s downfall, the link between the decline of the state and the rise of these depraved clansmen on the page is never sufficiently explained, but serves simply as a justification for tired themes of vengeance and rage. Bill’s prose, though inventive, is sometimes stylized to the point of distraction: “Shirtless, bruised, scabbed, tattooed with swastikas, skulls, the SS symbol flagging their necks. Their pants tucked into their boots. Suspenders ran from their waists up over their shoulders, each was smudged by ill living conditions. Stubbled faces, ratty locks, and their teeth were amiss, stained the colors of their yellow jackets.” Troublingly, the narrative also invokes racial stereotypes (the wise Asian teaching the white man, the ruthless Latin American drug kingpin), which are likely to alienate readers. Bill’s follow-up to his popular first novel will appeal to fans but will wear thin on readers looking for more than righteous violence. Agent: Stacia Decke, Donald Maass Literary. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 12/18/2017
Release date: 11/14/2017
Genre: Fiction
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