cover image Drought


Graham Masterton. Severn, $29.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-7278-8399-5

Veteran horror writer Masterton (Forest Ghost) exhumes a retrograde jumble of action-movie clich%C3%A9s in this uninspiring near-future parable, set in drought-stricken San Bernardino, Calif. Ex-Marine Martin Makepeace is a social worker contending with PTSD and a broken marriage. When corrupt governor Halford Smiley begins exploiting the water shortage to "cull" the city's poor, the ensuing anarchy%E2%80%94including the framing of Martin's son for rape and murder%E2%80%94requires Martin to reunite his family and flee to a secret lake known only to the last descendants of the Serrano Indians, who willingly cede this inheritance to the very white Martin for not much reason at all. False starts and a protracted denouement do the novel's pacing no favors, and neither does Masterton's clunky prose ("She raised her hand toward Martin in an undulating motion, as if she were trying to demonstrate to him how dolphin swim"). The combination of over-the-top, often grossly sexual violence with a flatly stereotyped cast of heroes, victims, and villains slows the reading experience to a distasteful slog. Agent: Camilla Shestopal, Peters Fraser & Dunlops. (Sept.)