I was picking up some books at Sally Kobee’s table at the World Fantasy Convention when I spotted K.S. Merbeth’s The Wastelanders, with the cover blurb “A full throttle, sand-in-your-eyes, no-holds-barred ride through a Mad Max-style wasteland” (from Delilah S. Dawson). That got my attention, sure enough.
But I was bringing back too many books from the con as it was, so I put it back reluctantly. I finally got a copy on Friday, and I’m glad I did. Turns out The Wastelanders is an omnibus edition of two Orbit paperbacks, Bite and Raid, which share a gritty post-apocalyptic setting. Booklist gave a rave review to the first when it first appeared; here’s a snippet.
Merbeth’s action-driven debut introduces us to Kid, a teenage girl who has known no world other than this postnuclear apocalyptic one. She’s barely surviving alone after the death of her father. Knowing she should not trust strangers but too tired and hungry to care, Kid gets in a car with two ominous figures, the large, dreadlocked Wolf and the bright-blue-haired Dolly. And so begins a fast-paced ride through a barren world in which food and water are scarce, “Raiders” and “Sharks” rule the trade routes, and cannibalism is a real survival option. The first-person narration will leave readers hanging on Kid’s every word as she falls in with Wolf and his gang. The first battle scene comes immediately and is closely followed by another and then another, constantly escalating… Filled with dark humor, wit, and a realistic dystopian setting, Bite plays with the idea of who the good guys are in such a harsh world. Think Carl Hiaasen thriller set in a Mad Max world, and you have an idea of what to expect.
We covered Bite after it first appeared last year (and I note that I was just as intrigued by that cover blurb back then… at least I’m consistent). But I somehow managed to totally miss the sequel Raid, so I’m grateful for the chance to rectify that oversight now.
The Wastelanders was published by Orbit on October 16, 2018. It is 595 pages (including 22 pages of sample chapters from two other Orbit releases, Lilith Saintcrow’s Afterwar and Nicholas Sansbury Smith’s The Extinction Cycle), priced at $16.99 in trade paperback and $9.99 for the digital edition. The cover was designed by Lisa Marie Pompilio.