Posted in books

On Creating a Reader + Benjamin Percy’s “The Deadlands”

Readimagesing came pretty easy for me. I don’t really remember a moment when the formation of words and sentences didn’t fascinate me. Math was foreign and mind-boggling for me at a young age, but reading (and phonics, at that time) was natural and easy.

The first books I really remember reading were from a series my mom ordered and we got in the mail. The McCall’s Storytime Treasury. Each over-sized book held two fairy tales , with parts of each story broken into ‘lines,’ like a play, giving me the chance to read along with my mom. The books not only held regular, Grimm’s fairy tales, but some unusual, more worldly tales.

A few years later, it must have been second grade, I found an Annie Oakley biography, and I realized that real people had adventures, too. Real women. I read many other books at about this age, attempting to read quite a few that were way above my grade level and understanding. At this age, my mom discovered I had been reading Stephen King’s The Shining after I began having horrible nightmares. She promptly took it away. I read it again a couple of years later, still way too young, but the plight of poor little Danny Torrance haunted me and I had to know he was okay.

With all of this, my love of reading was right there, but, by about 4th or 5th grade, I had a lot of other things vying for my attention. Swimming, soccer, softball, tennis, skiing . . . plus friends. All these things, and I was still finding time to read, but barely. If the right book wouldn’t have come along, I would have been just another reader and not a book nerd.

But I ran across A Wrinkle in Time, and my book nerd status was cemented.

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Madeleine L’Engle’s Newberry Award winner did it for me. The world of Meg Murray, her brother Charles Wallace, and the cute jock boy Calvin O’Keefe pulled me in and never let me go. A missing father, a misunderstood family, and an evil power. Kids finding their inner strength and saving the world? I found my second home, the place where I belonged–in books.

There have been many other book in my younger, formative years that pulled me in and held me. I read Bdownload (1)everly Cleary (and fell in love with Henry, Beezus, and, of course, Ramona), Judy Blume, and later S.E. Hinton and the older Judy Blume books. All those books hold a special place in my memory. I remember reading one book in high school that really spoke to me, even though my situation was nothing like the main characters. Dicey’s Song by Cynthia Voigt, showed me how much emotion and feeling words can evoke, how another situation can become so real through great writing, and how a great author can put a reader into the main character’s mind and body.

Because reading came naturally, books came naturally. I also had parents who knew the value in a great book, and taught me the love of reading from a young age. I was lucky and blessed. Finding books, the right books, that fueled that love and took it to another level is another gift. I was blessed in my life to have the right teachers and the best librarians as guides into myriad of worlds.

I hope I’m doing them justice.

I read Benjamin Percy’s Red Moon about a year ago, and I loved it, which really surprised me. It was very different than I thought it would be–a werewolf story with heart. So I was very excited about The Dead Lands.

A book about hope and manifest destiny in futuristic, post-nuclear America, my hope was fueled as well.

The Premise

A superflu followed by a nuclear war has wiped out the world as we know it. In St. Louis, a community has formed, and stayed together at the beginning with the memory of The United States. But many years have past, and the town now stays together with threats of the outside world and thoughts that they are they only survivors in post-apocalyptic America.

And then a girl from the outside shows up, a rider from the far west, showing them there are other survivors and telling them of a world where rain falls, crops thrive, and society survives.

Sneaking out of St. Louis, Lewis Meriwether and Mina Clark, along with a small posse, follow the strange girl to Oregon. Yes, Lewis and Clark make their way from St. Louis to Oregon. Following a woman who knew the way.

While the group is struggling to Oregon, hope begins to grow in St. Louis. And a totalitarian regime won’t last where hope grows.

 My Thoughts

Hope is always good, but when it falls flat, we’re faced with reality.

I wanted this book to be so much more. The idea was there, but it just never quite reached its potential.

I never fell in love with the characters, or even really in like. They didn’t seem fully developed to me, and the magic that happened was never really understood. The characters’ flaws were very present, but the redemption that would make up for those flaws was rushed in an attempt to get the book finished. And it really didn’t finish. I wanted to like the characters, to find one that touched me, but they all fell flat.

The idea of the Oregon Trail and Lewis and Clark in a post-apocalyptic world was genius. And St. Louis as the starting point, as the city unsure of where it stands or its roll in the world is brilliant. But the story and the characters never quite reached their full potential.

I give it three stars, because Percy can write. And it was an okay story, just not as good as it could have, or should have, been.



I love to read; writing is my outlet. My blog is my way to combine the two, with a some life stories thrown in for good measure.

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