2013’sDominoFallsis a sequel to Stephen Barnes and Tananarive Due’s 2012 novel,Devil’sWake.
FreakDay, when the infected turned on their former friends, neighbours,and family members, ended the comfortable old world. Mere weeks afterFreak Day, most humans are either dead or infected. The few untaintedsurvivors struggle to survive and to avoid the infection even onebite can transmit.
Kendralost her family to Freak Day and its aftermath. No person can survivealone for long; luckily for Kendra, she has five reliable allies inTerry, Piranha, Sonia, Dean, and Darius. Even better, the six teensmay have found the refuge they need in Domino Falls, one of the fewtowns to survive Freak Day.
Orthey may not.
DominoFalls survived because its major industry was the production ofsturdy fences. Alerted to the outbreak, the town had time to erectfortifications too tall for the infected to climb, too robust to bepushed over. Life within the fence may not be full of luxury, but atleast it is free from Freak attacks.
Pressedto survive on the resources on hand, Domino Falls has a very limitedcapacity for charity. Children aside, newcomers must prove they areable to contribute to the community. Hard news for the old andinfirm, who are allowed to camp outside the fence (a short reprievebefore infection). The teens have better prospects; they are allyoung and healthy. Well, with the exception of poor myopic Piranha,whose supply of contact lenses is quickly running out1.
Eachteen finds a suitable niche, a role that will justify their presence.This buys them enough time to recover from their adventures inDevil’sWakeand consider their next move. It also gives them enough time to takea long hard look at Domino Falls and to see problems that did notloom so large when the teens were tired and desperate for a refuge.
FormerB-star Josey Wales was a minor cult figure, leader of the so-calledThreadies, long before Freak Day. After Freak Day, he parlayed hisgood luck at being in Domino Falls into a position of respect andpower within the town. As long as Wales and his loyal Threadiecultists work to keep Domino Falls functioning, the non-Threadies arewilling to turn a blind eye to Wales’ disquieting predilections,not least of which is Wales’ penchant for recruiting young, prettywomen for his cult. Women who afterward vanish.
Kendralearns that she still has one living relative and that this relativecan offer Kendra and her friends a safer place to live. No predatorycult leader. But there’s a catch. The teens need to reach therendezvous in just two days. To do that, they need to get their vanfixed. The price the mechanic demands: retrieve a missing teen fromWales’ cult.
Allthat stands between salvation and the teens is a foray into the heartof Wales’ stronghold, filled with loyal acolytes and secrets thatWales will kill to protect.
Communitiesin an intermediate volume of an ongoing survivalist series tend notto do well. Unless the story is going to be about how the communitybecame the seed of the next cycle of civilization, the author isgoing to want to get the protagonists back out on the road again. Howto do that: either overwhelm the town with some external threat — townsas secure as Domino Falls havesuddenly fallen to Freaks — or to slowly reveal that the peoplerunning the town are as big a threat as the monsters outside thewalls.
Itshould be noted that while Domino Falls may have its problems, it’snot nearly as horrible as a lot of the survivalist communities thatshow up in fiction. The town may be ablist (unlike the averagepaleolithic community, which [archaeologists tell us] took care oftheir old and infirm) but at least they are shown as feeling badabout having to be so cruel. Like that helps.
Althoughthe focus is on Kendra, the supporting characters also have their ownstories. Perhaps the saddest is that of the unfortunate Piranha, whoallows his anxiety over his defective eyesight to sabotage hisrelationship with Sonia.
Isense that the authors are building towards some sort of climax.Freak Day wasn’t just a convenient way to divide the world intoheroes and monsters. There was a reason why it happened when it did,a reason that has implications to be explored. Which presumably theydo in the next volume, which I will have to track down. (No, no,please do not tell me the reason in comments.)
1:My editor asks “no glasses in Domino Falls?” As far as I cantell, glasses are off the teens’ radar, and Piranha in particularwon’t ask, just in case myopia is enough to get him kicked out.It’s possible that there is a fully stocked LensCrafters in town(aside from contact lenses, which we know are in short supply).