Raid by K S Merbeth
|Raid by K S Merbeth|
|Category: Dystopian Fiction|
|Reviewer: James Donald|
|Summary: An unrelentingly brutal read that doesn’t stop to draw breath from its vicious start until its bloody end.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 384||Date: July 2017|
|External links: Author's website|
A brutal road trip in a blighted landscape that pulls no punches. We travel with Clementine, a bounty hunter, in a world without heroes or hope.
Let’s get the elephant out of the room first – Mad Max. I ordered this book (not knowing it was the second set in the same fictional world) based upon its description alone but I regretted it as soon as I opened the envelope. The publicity people have gone into overdrive pushing the similarities between this and Mad Max. Don’t get me wrong here, I think that George Miller is a genius and the contribution of the ever-so-lovely Brendon McCarthy produced an epic that should be preserved for all time. That is not my issue. My issue is the cheap cashing-in on other things. Riding the coattails of a more successful piece of work.
In advertising and entertainment we use shorthand to describe things all the time. The reboot of Battlestar Galactica was known as The West Wing in space. It is a quick and easy way to understand something new.
So what is my problem?
Here I have to throw my hands up and say “Nothing”. I was rankled. I thought this was cheap and tacky. I was expecting a naff cash-in that would use familiar cues from the Max films to produce a mediocre plot. That was not what I got. The Mad Max comparisons are a typical lazy way to introduce the superficial similarities of genre and setting. This book does stand up to this comparison on a deeper level but it only goes so far. Max Rockatansky is a former Police Officer pushed beyond the brink of his sanity by a world gone utterly insane. He is a conflicted protagonist trying to survive but he keeps finding himself forced into situations where he has to be a hero. Max is at his core the same Policeman from the first film but he keeps trying to be selfish (and fails).
Clementine, in our book, is not Max. She has some similarities to Furiosa but these too are fleeting and slightly insulting to draw. Clementine is closer in personality to Dexter from the eponymous TV series than she is to any hero. She is a psychopath who lives by a code. Her journey and that of the chatty Jed (whom she transports for more of the book) is fascinating.
One other significant difference between this and Mad Max is the way gender is dealt with. In the first Mad Max film women were there to be raped or rescued. Men didn’t fare much better but at least they got to be central protagonists and antagonists. This situation gradually improved until the last film which is hailed as a feminist triumph. Whilst Furiosa’s gender never seems to be an issue in the film we still have to deal with the concept of women as property.
Raid is brilliant in the way that it handles gender. This book should be held up as an example for all to follow. Gender is dealt with by ignoring it.
Raiders are Raiders
Bounty Hunters are Bounty Hunters
Townies are Townies
We only discover the gender of characters through either names or the use of pronouns. There are no excuses made for either gender. No attention is drawn to gender at all. We simply have an equal number of archetypes divided between the genders evenly. My own inherent societal sexism is highlighted to me time and again. I assume characters to be one gender or the other based upon their actions only to be proven wrong over and again.
It is a real shame that it took an apocalypse to equalise us.
I love this approach to gender, this very new approach. There is not necessarily anything wrong with celebrating and playing to the strengths and differences between genders but it is really special to see so many works recently utterly ignoring them and just producing great characters regardless of gender.
Fast-paced, gripping, difficult to put down and over in a blood-stained flash. The Raid takes no prisoners and it will leave you short of breath.
Further reading: Marvel: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale is utterly different in style, idea and genre but it is another example of the same excellent way of handling gender equality without ever bringing it up.
You can read more book reviews or buy Raid by K S Merbeth at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy Raid by K S Merbeth at Amazon.com.
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