Think the world has gone all dark in 2020? Try spending some time in The City of the Dead. Governed by the ubiquitous McCallum, fought over by elite gangs, and populated by drug-addicted “opes”, it’s here that the eponymous Hawk ekes out a perilous existence. She lives with and provides for her “family”, four of the many victims of medical experiments. For ten years she has also waited each day for half an hour at the same spot, hoping for the return of her (unbeknownst to her, imprisoned) parents.
Part of the Maximum Ride series, this fast-paced, viscerally violent novel reads well enough as a stand-alone story, although one or two plot strands remain unresolved at the end. Our tough, unsentimental heroine – who, like her parents, is a bird-person hybrid – soon joins The Flock, a renegade bunch of insurgents dedicated to overthrowing nasty regimes everywhere.
In the story’s distorting mirror we can glimpse some of the concerns of our own world – Trump and America’s opioid crisis spring to mind for instance. This satire is not exactly subtle, though these days what has subtlety got to do with anything? There are moments of slightly creaky exposition-heavy dialogue but nevertheless, it’s hard to resist the book’s relentless momentum. Overall it’s an exciting, if not exceptional, example of the genre to which it belongs.