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K.S. Merbeth. Orbit, $9.99 mass market (416p) ISBN 978-0-316-30870-0

Merbeth centers the humanity of the bad guys in her gleeful postapocalyptic gore-fest debut. A crew of raiders and cannibals take in a wandering 16-year-old girl, dub her Kid, and shove her suddenly into their lifestyle of killing off townies, taking their stuff, and enjoying dinners of canned beans and fresh meat amid wound care and cautious camaraderie. When they hear that a mysterious figure named Saint is trying to return law and order to the wastes and has a reward out to anyone who brings in their crew alive, they decide to take the fight to him. The setting is barely sketched out and the action sometimes feels like a text description of a first-person shooter game, but McKenna makes it hard not to root for her quirky, amoral killing machines: gap-toothed, dreadlocked team leader Wolf; creepy Dolly with “blue hair and an assault rifle”; low-key, solid Tank; and Pretty Boy, who always runs away. Agent: Emmanuelle Morgen, Stonesong Literary. (July)