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Review: Jack McDevitt's Eternity Road (1997)

McDevitt, Jack. Eternity Road (1997: HarperPrism)

I've always liked these post-apocalyptic novels. This one is set on the eastern coast of the United States after a mysterious plague has decimated the population. After a disorganized, violent, and anti-feminist period, villages around the Mississippi have banded together into a small republic. Women still can't own property and are rarely schooled, but can run businesses and partake in public life. These people live in the ruins of our cities - they call us Roadmakers - and have artifacts of Roadmaker civilization, but little understanding of what Roadmaker society was like. They can read English but have few books. Legends tell of a man who saved books in the aftermath of the plague by storing them in a place called Haven. Parties head out periodically to search for Haven, but the journey is dangerous, and only one man returned from the last one. When he dies, he leaves a rare and valuable artifact to a young woman, Chaka - it's a copy of Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court that no-one knew he had. Convinced that the party, which included her brother, had indeed reached Haven, Chaka decides to mount an expedition of her own.

The bulk of the book is given over to a description of the journey, and it's especially fun to read descriptions of familiar places in this distant future - at one point they end up in Toronto's Union Station, not far from my home. There is a romantic theme which is kind of predictable, I thought, but Chaka is a plucky and strong character who chafes at the restrictions placed on her as a woman and finds her own way to follow through on her convictions. A light, but fun, read.

-- nl, 1/2001


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