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Book Review: Barricade

Barricade by Jon Wallace

Kenstibec is a member of the Ficial race, a breed of merciless super-humans. Their war on humanity has left Britain a wasteland, where Ficials hide in barricaded cities, besieged by tribes of human survivors. Originally optimised for construction, Kenstibec earns his keep as a taxi driver, running any Ficial who will pay from one surrounded city to another. The trips are always eventful, but this will be his toughest yet. His fare is a narcissistic journalist who's touchy about her luggage. His human guide is constantly plotting to kill him. And that's just the start of his troubles.

Barricade is another of the many debuts that Gollancz is bringer to you this year, so far they have kept on delivering some very great reads: The Boy with the Porcelain Blade, The Incorruptibles, The Seventh Miss Hatfield. These all were very strong and Barricade is no exception. When you look at the current Science Fiction genre a lot is published in the Space Opera category, Barricade takes place on our own planet Earth in a very unique setting. When I first read the synopsis of Barricade with Kenstibec being a taxi driver and hi being a Ficial I had to think of the movie Driving Miss Daisy, but just a few pages in Jon Wallace made me abandon this as his vision by first of the future that he envisions and everything accompanied and by the protagonist and said taxi driver Kenstibec. Barricade is Jon Wallace's debut and I do have to say if he continues this way, he will be a force to be reckoned with, Barricade is a provocative nail biting reading experience.

Barricade is a story about Ficials and Reals. Ficials are man-made android like beings. The world was coming to an end as we know it, lands didn't produce any crops, seas became poisonous, cattle got infected and much more, life couldn't go on. As a last resort mankind made the Ficials, and stuff you only see in movies like the created turning on the creator became a realization and the Ficials turned on mankind. A terrible war was the results and in the end the Ficials build barricaded cities for their kind to live in. These cities are being constantly assaulted the remaining survivors of mankind, the Reals. 

The focus in Barricade is on Kenstibec a Ficial, originally designed to be a construction worker but now has a job as an taxi driver. But not in the barricaded cities, no his job sees much more action as he transports Ficial from city to city, which is a tough job to say the least and he sees a lot of action. His earlier jobs can all be said that they weren't without any hassle, but with his current job it might all be considered peanuts as he now has to traverse a lot of ground through some very hostile area's. His current job entails of transporting a journalist Ficial, Starvie to another barricade but this is a dangerous job and against Kenstibec's believes he has to call in the help of a Real to help them pass several crucial points. They do find one person suited for the job, a Real called Fatty, but as it becomes apparent to Fatty, they need his help and this allows him to name some terms for himself as well... All in all this ride will be one that Kenstibec hadn't dared to dream of in many a years. Next to this part of Barricade which takes place in the current timeline, there is, behind each chapter, a secondary storyline that focuses on showing several events that happened prior to the apocalypse. This really build a nice scene surrounding the story of Barricade and even though the pages are spare gave a well rounded story. 

One thing that I liked in particular about Barricade was the way that Jon Wallace told his story. It was done from the perspective of Kenstibec but not while he is on foot, he is exploring, no showing you the world through his cab, as one part. While Kenstibec and co. are travelling across the deserted wastelands I could perfectly envision just how desolate the landscape must have been in this dystopian Britain. Added to this comes when they do venture outside of the taxi and into the city Jon Wallace paints them just as grim as the outside. The whole feeling of the grim world that is painted is further bolstered by the alternating storyline that is set in the past, this gives much more explanation of some things that you see in the current day storyline. Jon Wallace shows that he has some very nice skills in building his world. 

The characters that you meet in Barricade are both from the Ficial and Real side and it was nice to see perspective on the current situation from these two sides. The Ficial side is represented by the main protagonist Kenstibec, ex-construction worker and now taxi driver. He is really a piece of work. He is by far a jolly happy guy, Kenstibec is more like a pessimist when it comes to his view on the world. He doesn't really care about anything besides himself and his taxi. His current work and passion. Kenstibec has a dark sense of humor, that will raise your eyebrow on more than one occasion. Or at least it did so for me. I think a lot of readers will find it hard to connect with him but despite his personality that will make you hate him, he does have his charms, especially when you see him in the setting of the book. Another Ficial that you see is the now-journalist ex-pleasure girl Starvie. Given what her prior job was and how she "turned-out" I can only just sympathize with how she turned out, she was made as a pleasure worker but even Ficials have their own will. One interesting perspective is offered by the Real, Fatty, that Kenstibec requires to get him through some hostile Real areas. Fatty suffers from a disease and Kenstibec therefore thought that he could use him. he has only a few weeks left to live, but here comes the with of Fatty into play, he doesn't give his help away that easily. All along the way Fatty is subject to the snide remarks of the Ficials but he doesn't give in and goes against the grain, pretty cool to see that there were some tensions going on but non that escalated. 

If I take into account the world and the characters that inhabit it, I cannot say anything more than that I am impressed and that Jon Wallace has written a very strong debut. The whole setting of this dystopian Britian, mankind has just destroyed itself, it's really is rise of the machines. Many apocalypse themes have come and gone but Jon Wallace really introduces a fresh one to the front and shows it in a unique way, not by a lone wolf trekking from settlement to settlement but by a taxi driver of the most interesting kind. Too bad Barricade is such a short read, I hope that Jon Wallace will explore this world of his much more. The ending does readily invite it!


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