Disclaimer: I am not a book reviewer. But if you send me a book, I’ll review it. Eventually.
Especially if it’s a postapocalyptic medieval-themed fantasy novel set in Greater New Haven. (A huge genre, I’m sure.)
I’ve never heard of Pepper Press (specializing in all the latest postapocalypstic fiction and survival non-fiction), so I had no idea what to expect from first-time novelist JDG Perldeiner.
A few days later, I finished it. It was good. And in New Haven, sort of!
But First… a Glossary?!
The book starts auspiciously enough with a glossary of terms used post-Cataclysm (that’s The Bad Thing Which Happened). It’s a bold choice to start the book off and… not entirely necessary. Many of the terms are pretty obvious (Ignii is fire?!), and even the ones that aren’t can generally be understood within the context of the later pages.
I imagine it was an editorial choice, but it’s sort of a jarring start to a novel (I have to study this book?!), but it’s only a few pages long and once the book starts, you won’t put it down.
Welcome to the Future… Sort Of!
The story of Haven is set sometime in the near future, after The Cataclysm. Humanity can no longer harness the power of technology, which renders it into a sort of medieval age, plus or minus a few guns.
The new society exists alongside the ancient artifacts of the past — iPods and laptops and GPS — yet lacks the power and knowledge to use them. Except, of course, for this one Oracle-like girl. She’s the one who can figure out how to make the technology “talk.”
Basically, she knows how to reboot a computer.
The future has a definite medieval theme. There’s monks and knights and dancing tribesfolk.
The characters both fear and respect technology. Some folk, like the Green Men from Groton (BOOOOOO), use guns leftover from the ancients, while others even worship technology, but for most, like the monks of Haven (YAYYYYY), technology is both revered and feared.
A Novel Set in Familiar Surroundings
Anybody who lives in the Greater New Haven area is going to enjoy the familiar surroundings of Haven. From its namesake (Haven), which makes references to Yale’s Sterling Library, the Green, and Toad’s Place (seriously), to the farmland of Ham’s Den (I get it!), to the Scavs (those are scavengers, thank god for that glossary) in Woodbridge and beyond the horrors of Wilbur Cross (this is barely fiction), you’ll recognize towns and landmarks alike.
I tried to imagine if non-Nutmeggers would get the same pleasure from the book, and I think so. Perldeiner’s writing is excellent and he pushes the plot along well, regardless of whether or not you know about Sirkorsky’s influence on the Orange/Stratford area. But knowing does provide a level of color to the novel which it may otherwise lack.
There are even references to Litchfield County and Hartford, though they make very minor appearances. Perhaps a follow-up novel is in the works? Eh? Eh?
But what about the story?
Okay, fine. Enough of the dystopian post-technology medieval such and such. How’s the actual story?
Pretty damn good.
I actually plowed through it in just a few days while traveling in the United Kingdom. I loaned the book to a friend and he finished it several days later. We both agreed that while there were a few choices which seemed silly, overall, the plotting was excellent, and compelled us to finish it quickly.
The Green Men from Groton, who worship technology, are said to have found a way to unlock the power of the ancients and wake a powerful Dragon from the past. The monks of Haven — despite their non-violence — must find a way to stand against this mounting threat.
The journey takes many twists and turns, and there’s more than one or two red herrings, but overall, I found myself enjoying the way the characters interacted, and even when it seemed like a certain emotion wasn’t quite earned (for instance, Tiber enters a state of exhaustion rather early in his journey), eventually, it all pays off.
The last third of the book is a whirlwind of action and adventure, no matter what genre you enjoy. The setting of Connecticut’s coast only adds flavor to an otherwise enjoyable plot.
Sooo… more book reviews?
Probably not. Reviewing Haven taught me a valuable lesson the same way that working on the 48 Hour Film Project taught me a lesson: There’s some things I’m not very good at.
- Writing book reviews
- Acting (no, really)
Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and you will, too.
The book will be released September 3rd and can be purchased on Amazon.