The Dead Lands by Benjamin Percy
When Stephen King endorses a book with, “Good God, what a tale. Don’t miss it,” you have a pretty good indication that you’re in for a ride – and with Benjamin Percy’s The Dead Lands, you are.
It’s been 150 years since the emergence of a pandemic flu, with the ensuing nuclear chaos decimating the world. Now, a few thousand souls exist in an enclosure surrounding what used to be Saint Louis. Named Sanctuary, it’s primitive yet self-sustaining. Outside the walls of Sanctuary are the Dead Lands, a desert-like wasteland full of mutated horrors and living nightmares.
Not that life in Sanctuary is a picnic. Lingering nuclear fallout ensures that cancers and genetic mutations are rampant. It hasn’t rained in months and the wells are drying up. But worst of all is how small the world is for those born there – entire lives are spent inside those walls. No one is allowed outside the gates except for sanctioned rangers, or those sentenced to death via the mutated creatures who rule the Dead Lands.
Then one day a mysterious girl shows up outside the gates of Sanctuary – mutant, with black eyes. Before she can state who she is or where she came from, she is captured and thrown into prison, slated for execution. But to Wilhelmina Clark, this is an opportunity to put a plan in motion – a plan that will allow her and a select few to slip out of Sanctuary, to find out what lies beyond. In return for her freedom, the mutant woman promises to lead Clark and her company to Oregon, a land she says is green and thriving. The expedition knows there will be dangers ahead of them – but they never considered the dangers that lay within them.
And yet, there is also hope. It is hope that spurs Clark and company on when it seems like all is lost – hope for a better life, for a realization of worth, for fulfillment of a destiny. But with so much betrayal, corruption and harshness within and without, it may be a fool’s hope after all.
To find out, you’ll have to read The Dead Lands for yourself. But that shouldn’t be a tough call. After all, Stephen King was right. Good God, what a tale. Don’t miss it.