cover image 40


Alan Heathcock. MCD, $27 (304p) ISBN 978-0-374-10023-0

A “Great Quake” has exacerbated environmental disasters and divided a postapocalyptic America geologically and civilly in Heathcock’s tepid debut novel (after the collection Volt). Religious organizations are hunted down by the government, which wields the army as its means of civilizing the new world order. Mazzy Goodwin is a soldiers, but when she inexplicably sprouts a pair of wings while standing in a bomb crater, she becomes an unlikely savior. After Mazzy’s mother is killed and her sister Ava Lynn captured, she is inducted into the settlement known only as 40, last bastion of Christian sect the Novae Terrae, led by the charismatic Jo Sam. Mazzy, accompanied by her boyfriend, Dewey Chang, goes in pursuit of Ava Lynn and comes to know the Novae Terrae, including her chaperone Donta; vivacious actor Nalli Sandoval; famous imposter Raja Garbos, seldom dressed without his signature eye patch; and fallen producer Astoria. Taken for an angel, Mazzy questions her loyalties, especially after striking a bargain with a general for help with finding Ava Lynn in exchange for supporting Jo Sam. An engaging setting can’t entirely disguise that this is by-the-numbers postapocalyptic fare, and Mazzy isn’t much of a protagonist. It works as a diversion, but don’t come expecting staying power. Agent: Sarah Burnes, Gernert Company. (Aug.)