My business trip started with a taxi ride from the bottom of Leith Walk in Edinburgh, I got to London, spent two days in business meetings and then flew home. I read Barricade in that time.
I mention my own travelling not just to illustrate how fast moving and compelling Barricade is but also because our cold blooded anti-hero Kenstibec also starts his adventure in a taxi that leaves Leith Walk. He also heads to London.
Kenstibec’s trip is a challenge though. The world is locked in the nuclear winter and the countryside between Edinburgh and London is teaming with hostile tribes of humans. They want nothing else but to kill Kenstibec.
Those pesky humans.
Our taxi driving hero isn’t human. He’s a “Ficial”. He’s an engineered race of super-humans and isn’t affected terribly by the plagues sweeping the land or bullets for that matter. It would take a couple of shots to the head to kill him.
As a Ficial Kenstibec makes for a strange hero. He seems to be without emotion or mercy and yet… oddly, he’s a strangely empathic character. After all; it’s hardly his fault that the humans (the Reals) didn’t line up for termination as Control thought they would. They’re so unpredictable.
Kenstibec isn’t taking his armoured Land Rover down to London for fun. He’s a taxi driver with a fare. The passenger today is a Ficial created to be a pleasure toy for the humans but is now doing well in her new career as TV star for the Ficials and as a reporter.
The trouble for Kenstibec escalates when the King of Newcastle, a Real who has managed to organise some of the tribes, becomes aware of the taxi fare down to London. Whereas Kenstibec can take on a Real or two, he was built for construction, not fighting, and soon there’s a whole tribe after him.
I really enjoyed Jon Wallace’s Barricade. The idea of barricades going up around cities in a post-apocalyptic Britain seems to be a popular one but having the hero as the non-human is a real twist on things. Barricade is dark at times, dead pan funny at others – especially as the emotionless Ficials struggle with human nature – and full of drama.
My copy of Barricade was provided for review. Jon Wallace, Gollancz.