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By The Feet Of Men by Grant Price #BookReview

The world’s population has been decimated by the Change, a chain reaction of events triggered by global warming. In Europe, governments have fallen, cities have crumbled and the wheels of production have ground to a halt. The Alps region, containing most of the continent’s remaining fresh water, has become a closed state with heavily fortified borders. Survivors cling on by trading through the Runners, truck drivers who deliver cargo and take a percentage.

Amid the ruins of central Germany, two Runners, Cassady and Ghazi, are called on to deliver medical supplies to a research base deep in the Italian desert, where scientists claim to be building a machine that could reverse the effects of the Change. Joining the pair is a ragtag collection of drivers, all of whom have something to prove. Standing in their way are starving nomads, crumbling cities, hostile weather and a rogue state hell-bent on the convoy’s destruction. And there’s another problem: Cassady is close to losing his nerve.

By the feet of men by Grant Price book cover

Title: By The Feet Of Men | Author: Grant Price | Publisher:  Cosmic Eggs Books | Pub. Date: 1 September 2019 | Pages: 344 | ISBN: 9781789041453 | Genre: Science Fiction | Language: English | Triggers: None | Rating: 3 out of 5 | Source: Copy provided by the author for review consideration

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By The Feet Of Men Review

David Henry Thoreau lamented that “the surface of the earth is soft and impressible by the feet of men; and so with the paths which the mind travels.” Grant Price’s novel borrows its title from this Thoreau’s pushback against conformity only to travel the well-worn, post-apocalyptic path laid down by too many novels to mention and of course, the “Mad Max” films. While “By the feet of men” offers sufficient characters and ideas to carry us readers, the road-trip ends leaving us wishing for a road less traversed.

Must the future always be horrible? Do we perhaps carry too much anxiety about our planet? Can we not get enough of the world ending through the fault of our own? The environmental movement has left us futurising the worst possible scenario – it all collapsed and we were the cause. In Price’s own words, we “inherited the guilt.” What happened to optimism? Where is the “Brave New World”? Huxley’s future was grim, but it was grim in a novel way.

“By the feet of men” portrays Europe after the “Change”, a chain of events triggered by global warming. Society has ended, the leviathans of state are things of the past, human life is once again brutal, nasty and short. Those starving humans that have survived the Change cling to life in settlements dotted around an overheated and radioactive Europe. The only medium of trade are armoured cargo trucks and their grizzled drivers known as the Runners.

Cassady and Ghazi are Runners who make a meagre living moving cargo between settlements in their battered vehicle “Warspite”, named probably for the Royal Navy battleship. Perpetually hungry and exhausted, self-preservation is their exclusive motivation until they agree to a desperate mission for a cause greater than themselves. An assignment to deliver a cargo of medical supplies to a scientific community deep in the Italian desert becomes the plot’s central focus. This is a story of a mission to save the world, but it is also one of the tension between survival and sacrifice.

The plot keeps it simple and relies on its characters, the most interesting of whom is Ghazi, an Afghan mechanic and Runner. His commitment to a greater cause constantly tugs at and sometimes provides an excuse for his reflex to preserve his life. The other characters lack such depth, all are cut from the grim “each for their own” mould, perhaps understandably so given their situations.

Cassady is world-weary and in love with a runner from another crew. Hearst provides a strong female character but is more hardened than any of the men and more distant than their eventual goal. The bleak story reminded me of Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road”, but absent is the lingering sense of doom, unspeakable tragedy, or glimmer of hope. The action is present but holds back, I wanted more Warspite. The novel is essentially the first act of “Lord of the Rings”, beginning with an unexpected and miserable party and ending when what is left of the company reaches Rivendell. Price’s writing style is minimal enough for a minimal plot, but sometimes he tries too hard to write. Mosquitoes “stake their claims in mahogany skin” and the “dichotomy catches in the throat”. “By the feet of men” is not bad but neither is it exceptional. The author should be proud and confident to push himself in his future work.

You can find this book at many retailers via clicking on the appropriate link on Goodreads (Buying direct from retailers is a good way to support indie authors); however, in the spirit of supporting literacy programs, we would like to point out that you may be able to purchase this book through BetterWorldBooks.

Published inScience Fiction Book ReviewsUnstarred Reviews

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