(Overdue) Book Review: Scavenger: Evolution
***To the best of my ability, this is a SPOILER-FREE review. Please leave a comment if there are any questions***
This is a book review I had intended to have posted weeks ago, but (as we are all aware) life happens. Apologies.
Scavenger: Evolution, by Timothy C. Ward, is an omnibus containing the three parts published as: Scavenger: Red Sands, Scavenger: Blue Dawn, and Scavenger: Twin Suns. This story is set in the world of Hugh Howey’s SAND omnibus. This, of course, brings up the question: Do you need to have read SAND before reading SCAVENGER? No. I had not read any of Hugh Howey’s work before reading SCAVENGER. I can say after having read SAND, the setting and location had a little more context, and depth, to me. One thing Tim Ward did in SCAVENGER was paint a very interesting picture of the world Hugh Howey created, in SAND, which made it fascinating and made me want to check out SAND.
But I’m not here to review SAND, today. 🙂
In a nutshell, SCAVENGER tells the story of Rushing Stenson, a former sand dive-master whose life has fallen into a rut of depression, alcohol and lack of meaning after the death of his son and subsequent ugly separation from his wife, Star, because of it. Working a brothel, Rush encounters a stranger with an enticing job offer that would require his unique skills as a diver and would set him up to restart his life. This job sets, in motion, catastrophic events that lead him to reunite with his wife and fellow dive master, Avery. With Rush’s help, Avery leads a group of survivors to locate and colonize the lost city of Danvar.
One thing I can say for this story, you just about can’t count on any of the primary character’s loyalty with the exception of one. That’s not to say anyone is actively trying to stab anyone in the back. There are outside forces at work driving some of these character’s actions, which has you often wondering when they are acting on their own and when they are not.
This story is told from Rush’s POV and the author does a good job of showing us his intense inner struggles coping with the death of his son and things are revealed that make you understand how and why his life has been in the toilet.
I felt like the story moved incredibly fast. given the events that leading them to try to find Danvar. While the town had experienced a great catastrophe, I thought people decided, too easily, to follow Avery to find a city, that was almost a legend, just because he said he knew where it was. This worked in the reboot of BattleStar Galactica, in which Earth was a similar legend and Commander Adama used that legend to give the remains of the human race a reason to pick itself up by the bootstraps and carry on in the wake of the slaughter by the Cylons. I didn’t feel like there was quite enough desperation for the people of Springston to pack up their children and do the same thing, in this story, being as how there was another town to the south.
This story has no shortage of action, particularly in part 3 (Twin Suns) and the author has no compunction about putting his characters through the hell the story demands and the author handles the action well.
During the journey to locate Danvar, a number of lost technologies are discovered, that made things very interesting, along with the keepers of that technology: The Sentries. For some things, I would have wanted a little more explanation, given the role they played in this story. One of which is an additional thread, besides the chief antagonist, that I hope will be explained in the next book.
By the end, I got the meaning of the subtitle, EVOLUTION, and I think things are set up nicely for the next book by leaving you with questions you want answered (as I’ve already touched on). But most are the right kind of questions that have me looking forward to next book because I WANT those answers.
I do have a few issues with the story, of course. The antagonist, known as The Gov, is a phantom menace in the true sense of the word (to borrow an apt Star Wars term – probably the best thing to come out of that POS next to Darth Maul, but that’s another story). While he does have boots on the ground doing his dirty work, so to speak, I didn’t really feel the “thread” that he was supposed to be despite clearly being able to pull the puppet strings from his undisclosed location. not sure if it was the writing or the way he was presented. It seemed all they character’s had to do was turn off whatever video screen he was on and he was out of the picture (pun intended). Like most things, I expect we’ll get a better sense of The Gov’s power and influence in the next book.
Another issue for me, was with some of the character motivation/reactions in some situations. ***I should pre-face this by saying my first FULL read of this book was the audiobook and the narration may have colored some of my reactions to things in the story.*** The best example of this, I think, is near the end of part one. Just after the Springston catastrophe, Avery finds Rush and Star. It’s unclear how long it had been since they had seen each other, but the encounter comes across as two friends unexpectedly finding each other on the street, rather than survivors finding each other in the midst of total chaos. This may have just been because of the way the narrator read this part. I’ve gone back to see how it read to me and I couldn’t get past the narrator’s version in my head. A little more context for this situation may have helped it, but it could have just as easily been read differently to convey the proper emotions. Also, some Rush’s dialogue with Star seemed out of place, bordering on ‘flowery’, in some life-threatening situations.
While shifting loyalties of the characters added tension and some mystery, I thought there may have been little too much flip-flopping going on and it have been the lack of some explanation, but I found myself having to go back and re-listen to some parts so I was straight on who was doing what.
But other than that, I thought it was a well-written story. The author weaves in poetic prose to give life to Rush’s inner thoughts and motivations, albeit to occasional excess. Again, I thought the story did move a bit fast and might have benefited from showing us a little more about what was going on, but it does work as written.
I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys tension-filled science fiction and would invite readers of SAND to give it a look. I would score it a 3.5/5. ***My goodreads rating is 4 stars because 3.5 wasn’t an option***
So do you agree? Disagree? Comment below.
***Note: I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review***