I should start to state I am a fan of Eric Brown. The Guardians of the Phoinix is his latest work and I was very excited when I started to read this post apocalyptic coming of age slash road movie story.
Paul the young protagonist is living alone with an old lady in the ruins of Paris when we meet him the first time. He gets captured by cannibals and is rescued by another group searching for a means of survival. Both groups are looking for a rumored cache of food and survival gear in the town.
The story has a bit of simplicity to it and the characters are less developed than in Eric’s Bengali Station Trilogy but on the other hand I felt that emphasized the survivalist feel of the book. The humanity that survived in this desert of a world where the seas has dried up and humanity is on the brink of extinction might not be so three dimensional. But there is a core of optimism in all the gloom as indicated by the title.
The Big Breakdown is never explained in detail but its aftermath involved nuclear and biological attacks. The seas have dried up and deserts cover most of earth’s surfaces that much we know. Small colonies of humans survive across Europe. It feels foreboding to read about those small, small enclaves making meager living where millions of people live today.
The group Paul joins with is on the track of a way to save the peoples in the colony they left behind in Copenhagen. And they have more than the rumored cache. Unfortunately for them so has the surviving cannibals and the story continues with a race to reach salvation first. But salvation is never as easy as it seems.
The book made me uncomfortable at times especially when he presented characters that were forced to cannibalism to survive as relatively sympathetic individuals. Some of the violence is also on the rough side. I wonder if this started out as a YA because sometimes the sex feels a bit out of place too.
I read and enjoyed Guardians of the Phoenix as a post apocalyptic space opera but know that Eric Brown can write much better than this. Another fifty pages would not have hurt the book.
Title: Guardians of the Phoenix
Author: Eric Brown
Paperback: 350 pages
Publisher: Solaris (2010)
Copy: Bought it myself
Global warming has taken its terrible toll. The seas have dried up and deserts cover much of the Earth’s surface. Humankind has been annihilated by drought and the nuclear and biological conflicts following the Great Breakdown. Desperate bands of humans still survive. Some live far underground, away from the searing temperatures and ongoing conflicts on the surface; others scrape a living in the remains of shattered cities above ground. In Paris, Pierre lives like an animal among the sand-drifted ruins of the once great city. Near death, he faces a choice: join the strangers heading south in search of water, or remain in the city and perish. Guardians of the Phoenix tells the story of the last survivors on planet Earth, their desperate fight for survival and their last hope to save the world