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WesternSFA


Bannerless
by Carrie Vaughn
Mariner Books, $14.99 TPB, 274 pp
Published: July 2017

This is a very quiet and subtle story.  Enid lives in a post-apocalyptic world where environmental conditions are still the biggest challenge to life - something that is beginning to seem more and more possible these days. She is a sort of regional investigator called in when the town or croft cannot police themselves or solve a problem.  Murder is all but unheard-of so when she and her partner Tomas are called to investigate a death, initial information does suggest an accident.   But there are several niggling problems for Enid and Tomas.  First and foremost is why one of the three town elders felt the need to call in an investigator.  This made Enid look a bit more closely at both the scene of the death and the town itself.  It soon became apparent that someone else had been there when the fellow died.  It was also abundantly clear that the unfortunate man was a loner and disliked by most of the town although he was useful and kept to himself.  But still Enid couldn’t be sure until the ranking elder in the town tried to bribe her.  The bribe was an offer for Enid to stay in town and be allowed to bear a baby.

In this world, resources are carefully husbanded so as not to repeat the mistakes of their ancestors; making population control a mainstay of their culture.  A family unit must prove capable of supporting another mouth to feed without overusing local resources; a very careful balance.  Making a baby without permission is a heinous crime.  So, while Enid knew the elder himself had not caused or contributed to the death, he was certainly protecting someone or something.

The other problem, for Enid, was the unexpected presence of her first love, Dak.  Dak was a wanderer and he and Enid had broken off their relationship many years earlier when Enid realized how much more she needed family.  But here he was, bringing back old memories.  The book bounces delightfully between the present and Enid’s past illustrating the culture and importance of maintaining society’s rules.  The book is really about Enid’s perceptions and I loved it.  Her voice was so clear and she was so vivid.  And the resolution, of course, hovered around those very societal rules.  A very satisfying read.   ~~ Catherine Book

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