Book Review: The First Marauder - A Post-Apocalyptic Look Into Human Nature
At Hartsfield Jackson International Airport on a Tuesday afternoon I breezed through security and already secured my preflight coffee and bagel, I decided to do my favorite thing, people watch. It’s intriguing to see the type of people you encounter during weekday air travel. I then caught a glimpse of a young, 15-16 years old, scrawny brown-haired boy, carrying a tattered canvas military backpack. He was dressed in dated clothes; hoodie and jeans worn in the knees and elbows, tell tale signs of hard living. I then took a quick look to see if anyone else noticed this strange site. Everyone seemed utterly oblivious to this oddity in an international terminal. The young boy walked to a terminal that read Tampa, departure time: NOW.
I was shaken awake by turbulence somewhere over the Atlantic. Taking a quick look around the dark cabin, I was confused, but I noticed the book in my lap after coming to my senses. The cover of “The First Marauder” was decorated with the same boy I had seen in my dream. I had fallen asleep midway through the novel, but it was the hours and not the company of Luke Ryan’s narrative. The copious amount of in flight cocktails probably didn’t help to keep my eyes open either. Taking a sip of (now) cold coffee from my thermos, I shook the haze off and dove back into the world of “The Red.”
Luke Ryan’s debut novel from veteran owned publisher, Dead Reckoning Collective takes place in a post-apocalyptic Tampa, Florida. The story follows a young boy named Tyler, plunging into a world of violence and survival after the death of his brother. If you don’t know who Luke Ryan is, well, buddy, you are missing out! He is a spectacular poet, with two published collections under his belt titled The Gun & The Scythe and A Moment of Violence. He is also a very successful Journalist, with published articles in The New York Times and Coffee or Die Magazine.
Now I’ll only talk about the first chapter because, in my opinion, the first chapter of every novel is the make or break for every reader, sometimes even less. I felt the gravity of the book as soon as my eyes hit the dedication:
“Dedicated to those who were shaken by violence in their youth.”
As soon as I read that, I knew I was going to be in for a ride. In the very first lines, Tyler’s brother is killed, setting the scene for the rest of the story quickly yet not divulging too much. Lost and confused like most young men are after great tragedy, Tyler did what most of us have done and walked into a recruiting office. The local Militia needs a few good men to defeat the evil of neighboring factions and to preserve the values of the East Tampa Militia. Tyler doesn’t care about that shit, “Blood was indeed on his mind.” A then grizzled legend of a veteran interviews him at the recruiting office and instills in him some words of wisdom. A line that stuck with me was, “A healthy thirst for the blood of the enemy is important as a young warrior, understand that there are larger objectives at play. Those always come first”.
The old veteran sees through Tyler’s half-truths of “just wanting to help” but approves the boy for service. Tyler then takes an oath and is wisped off to a basic training type ordeal. The whole first couple of pages seemed so familiar to me. It drew up emotions and helped me recall a lot of why I joined. It reminded me of the half-truths I told my recruiter to get into the fight. I’m sure I am not alone in this either. Most of us joined for vengeance of 9/11, the death of our brothers and sisters as Americans to later find out along the way that maybe it isn’t so black and white. Luke captures these emotions perfectly and spins them into his fiction universe to give readers from many walks of life insight into the nature of a population’s fight for resources and how violence can shape the youth and, in turn, shape a society.
Overall, it’s so much more than just “Red Dawn” meets some zombie movie. One subtle thing I really enjoyed is Tyler having to remember his high school science lessons to make simple things work like electricity -- Like; why do movies never cover those kinds of obstacles? I sure as hell don’t know how a toilet works and if the end of the world was tomorrow, I would not be the best candidate to help rebuild society. So, kids pay attention in school.
So, what is my first look bare bones opinion of this novel? It is fucking deep. This book, at the surface, is just a fictional tale of vengeance in a post-apocalyptic world. Yet three chapters in it will have second guessing your whole young adult life and past choices. It arguably is the authors self-reflection of his own life. All fiction has a basis of truth, whether vague or obscure, whether hobbits and dragons or old men and fish. Emotions cannot always be recreated accurately and conveyed to readers the way we experience them. It’s difficult, and readers familiar with such emotions will see through the bullshit a mile away. Luckily Luke Ryan is not that man, nor do I see him ever becoming that type of writer, and this is only the first of the series. Pick up “The First Marauder,“ wherever books are sold!
Written By William "Buck" Bolyard