cover image Sweetwater


Knut Faldbakken. Peter Owen Publishers, $31.95 (184pp) ISBN 978-0-7206-0911-0

Post-apocalyptic literary fiction has gone somewhat out of fashion in recent years but, then, Faldbakken's grim, effective sequel to Twilight Country (published in the U.S. in 1993) was written in 1976 and posits an unusual kind of disaster scenario: one that imagines a future society bent on reform and economic recovery but collapsing into decay because of a lack of resources and energy. Jonathan Bean is a cop in an unnamed country who's kidnapped by a ragtag band of outlaws when he goes looking for his murdered brother in a blighted section of the city of Sweetwater. Bean initially resists the efforts of his captors to break him down, but eventually his will and determination weaken and he becomes a dependent member of the outlaw group. Meanwhile, factionalism abounds both within the group and in the city at large; when the urban breakdown degenerates into a de facto civil war between the police and the army, the outlaws are forced to leave their garbage-ridden hovel. Faldbakken is a sound storyteller, avoiding cliche through solid interior characterization, unexpected plot twists and gut-wrenching survivalist details. At times, his political allegory gets a bit heavy-handed but, overall, this is a fine resolution to a work that should enhance not only the author's reputation but that of modern Norwegian fiction. (Aug.)