Sunday, April 17, 2022

The Meek (Unbound Trilogy #1) by JD Palmer

I've been quite a long-time fan of post-apocalyptic fiction, and whether the human race goes bye-bye courtesy of aliens, zombies, nuclear war or rapture, the results are almost always the same for the survivors who desperately try to rebuild or cling to the vestiges of the world they once knew. In JD Palmer's The Meek, we meet Harlan, who's your average, garden-variety nice guy who somehow doesn't pop his clogs when a virulent virus wipes out 99 percent of the human race.

I've had this one in my TBR pile awhile now, and I had to go check the release date just to be sure, but book one did come out in 2017, so it was, ahem, almost oddly prescient about things to come. Granted, The Thing I Won't Mention By Name didn't quite go as far as the disease in Palmer's novel.

I'll start by saying that if exploring the darker side of human nature, and all that entails, isn't quite your jam, then this is possibly not *quite* the novel you're looking for – the start of the novel is quite triggering for those struggle to read stories where women are abused. So, insert trigger warning here – maybe step away if this freaks you out. I found Harlan quite a sympathetic character, even if he starts out quite passive. He goes through an almost literal hell, and watching him grow in himself to stand up against every obstacle that this new world of horrors can throw at him is rather satisfying. 

Kudos also to the support cast. I really love the friendships that develop slowly as the pages turn. I'm not going to go into too much detail as I don't want to spoil. I'm also going to do the awful thing by drawing parallels between The Meek and the kind of social dynamics we encounter in series such as The Walking Dead, merely because it's going to be easier to paint the correspondence with broad brush strokes. Of course there are no zombies here, and the true monsters walk on two legs and look just like you and me.

While on the outside, this is a pure survivalist fantasy, set in a post-pandemic wasteland, I feel that Palmer does dig into the essential humanness of his characters, which is why I kept reading and why I'll eventually go onto book two once I have the opportunity. This is a story about the connections forged within states of great adversity, to move beyond the savagery that lies just beneath the skin, that often needs very little excuse to come out. What would you do if you had a chance to rebuild human society? How do you overcome the power play of those who do not suffer pangs of conscience? 

I'll admit freely that I'm a huge sucker for stories that are based on a 'hard reboot' of civilisation, and Palmer delivers this sort of setting in spadefuls, and then some.

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