A Gemmel-esque Adventure in a World of Sand: Hugo Nominee Timothy C. Ward’s Scavenger: Evolution

A Gemmel-esque Adventure in a World of Sand: Hugo Nominee Timothy C. Ward’s Scavenger: Evolution

Scavenger Evolution

Tim Ward, along with the rest of the Adventures in SciFi Publishing podcast team, just got a Hugo Nomination for best Fancast.

Like his colleagues, he’s not just a fan, he’s a writer. Just in case you were wondering, How good? here’s a quick review of his debut novel Scavenger: Evolution: (Sand Divers, Book One).

First, let’s get something out of the way — we don’t want a sad-pandas-at-the-Black-Gate-gate!

Tim and I have been friends since he interviewed me. We chat online from time to time. We beta-read each other’s material — he’s saved me from handing in a duff manuscript at least twice! — and both belong to that community of aspiring authors breaking into, or just starting to get established in, the profession.

However, part of the reason we’re friends is mutual professional respect. I like his work. Here’s why.

Tim is one of those guys I’m sure high school girls called “sweet.” He’s also a religious man, the kind from time to time references God on his blog (not very British!).

He doesn’t write like that.

Or at least his writing defies the stereotype, but ultimately fits what we know about him.

Scavenger: Evolution opens with Rush, our broken hero, mourning his lost son and broken marriage while working in the kind of job so gross and demeaning that I have yet to see it on the pages of the Oglaf webcomic (no, no link, it’s howlingly NSFW).

John Shannow
Gemmel’s Wolf in Shadow series of post-apocalyptic westerns

We’re in a setting inspired by Hugh Howey’s World of Sand — this is quasi-franchise fiction —  an almost magical realist dystopia where everything is covered in… you guessed it… sand. Sand divers use mentally-controlled power armor to rummage around in the depths, which is how Rush lost his son.

Rush doesn’t get to wallow for long. Somebody kidnaps his estranged wife in order to force Rush to….. ah, no spoilers.

The plot is linear like an assault course, but with twists and inversions. Ward is great at sketching vivid likable characters then erasing them. He also has a good line in what’s best described as “black sex comedy”.

As I read the book, I got this weird familiar feeling… and then it hit me; this was Gemmel-esque — like something by David Gemmel, specifically his Wolf in Shadow series of post-apocalyptic westerns.

Decisions have real consequences. People die. Good people do bad things, but even the fallen can find some kind of hazardous redemption, which perhaps takes us back to Tim’s religion. Most of all this book is honest — honest about human nature, which makes it dark — and optimistic, which makes it in the end oddly feel good.

This isn’t a classic novel. It’s not got the breadth we’ll see from Tim in his later career. But it’s a deeply satisfying fast read with a dark depth beneath the layers of sand.  Tim is a writer to watch.

You heard it here first!

M Harold Page (www.mharoldpage.com) is a swordsman and full-time author. Right now you can get his new action-packed YA Dark Age adventure, Shieldwall: Barbarians! on Kindle. Read an interview with him over on Modern Medievalist.




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