This violent, ambitious, and often preachy postapocalyptic debut features Police Chief Sam Edison of Little Five, a walled community near Atlanta that’s struggling to survive 10 years after the world’s petroleum has gone sour. Once-human “hollow-heads,” virtually unkillable cannibals, hunt anything living for food. Sam Edison, haunted by the earlier deaths of wife and daughter, attempts to solve the murders of two strangers, a man and a traumatized pregnant teen, who recently arrived at Little Five. Sam is compulsively drawn to save the innocent and also undertakes a protracted search for the mayor’s abducted stepdaughter; this investigation exposes a wide-ranging human trafficking ring involving various human enclaves. Rife with stomach-wrenching sorties against invading hollow-heads, this novel bitterly explores how a remnant of humanity can abandon its conscience for dark rewards. In ambivalent, constantly self-recriminating, and guilt-ridden Sam, it also traces a stubborn human refusal to abandon one’s post, and the insistence on atoning for losses that can never be regained. Prosaic supporting characters do little to expand this grim tale. Agent: Bernadette Baker-Baughman, Victoria Sanders & Assoc. (Jan.)
This review has been updated to remove a spoiler.