Book Review: Bannerless by Carry Vaughn (Two Stars)


Book Review: Bannerless by Carry Vaughn

Two Stars

“You’re trying to save a world that went away a century ago.”

Had to force myself to finish. The premise was so blatantly ridiculous that I had to see if the author somehow saved it. She didn’t. The setting is a post-industrial, post-electrical, post-pharmaceutical, post-religious utopia a century after The Fall, which is the end of civilization as we (or at least Californians) know it. Except they still have solar cars and birth control implants. And a still? They miss plastic wrap? I’d miss antibiotics.

“Wouldn’t want anyone to get more than they deserved, because that was what doomed the old world.”

Villages of hundreds have replaced cities of millions, and everyone lives in hippy communes growing vegetables and weaving cloth. Community standards are enforced by gossip and “investigators,” constables who are judge, jury, and presumably executors. It’s all warm and fuzzy and smells aromatic. Except there’s this dead body.

“They were supposed to be better than that. Better than the old world.”

“Children are precious … you are willing to earn the right to bear a child of your own someday, and not leave it to chance.” Reminds me of Saudis, who tell us how much they honor women, as they treat them like property.

“If you could manage the birth rate, you could manage anything, and they had the stats to prove it.” Only if they invented them. With the lack of antibiotics and medicine, the death rate–especially the infant mortality rate–would skyrocket. Not only Dark Ages; look at the nineteenth century. Vaughn contrasts the homesteads with the single mother of three in the Ruins; invalid.

Quibbles: “Heard the [electric] car’s motor”? Resources scare, yet they burn the dead on big, honking pyres. Salt harvested from dried lake beds might contain dangerous chemicals.

“We’re lucky we didn’t die.” “That’s what makes it an adventure.”

All that said, Vaughn is a good storyteller. Well-constructed, folded story line. Read this as fantasy and it’s almost enjoyable, just don’t expect it to make sense.

“The plan has to be for everyone or it fails; we all fail.”