Broadcasting from somewhere in the wildlands

I’ve been keeping an eye on Sean McLachlan‘s fiction output ever since he welcomed me, most warmly, into one of Madrid’s very supportive writers’ groups–I mention this as much to toe the line of Full Disclosure as I do to reveal to the wider world in this small way what a nice person he is. Niceness is no guarantee of being a good writer, though, if anything it’s the opposite, so I’m worried to reveal that the steady development I’ve seen first-hand in his writing has been badly impeded by a stubborn refusal to diminish his personal charm. Sorry, Sean, but if you really want to scale the heights you’re going to have to get mean…

Anyway, about that book. Radio Hope is the beginning of a post-apocalyptic adventure series in which the environment has been ravaged by a variety of man-made disasters, some of them in the traditional warlike vein, but others traced back to the sort of near-sighted ecological carelessness that humanity is currently conducting all around us. This is a very topical variation on a theme, and Sean uses this setting to frame his take on a mixture of post-apoc tropes. These include edgy scavengers wandering the corrupted wilderness and lost souls dwelling in the ruins of the past, dangerous extremists sweeping all before their new religion and beating on the walls of the new communities, last hold-outs of law and order… and maybe breeding grounds for “new” oppressions of their own.

Fortunately, Sean doesn’t let the endless possibilities go to his head and keeps things on the tragically believable side. There are no giant bugs and super-human mutants lurking in this scorched earth, but there is the titular Radio Hope, a Public Broadcasting Service of the future, sharing survival advice to anyone able to receive it–an unusually humanistic note of optimism in a genre that tends more towards leather-clad, shotgun-wielding lone heroes to help out more pitiful survivors.

I liked it, so much so that–faced with all those empty days until the next instalment arrives–to satisfy my craving for radioactive scavenging and crumbling pockets of civilisation I’ve started playing Fallout: New Vegas again, after several years of twitchy abstinence. So thanks a lot, Sean: Radio Hope kicked me off the wagon. Better grab your shotgun, only you can save me now…

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