Conrad Scott by Sean Patrick Sayers asks the reader to make two rather large concessions:
1. If all electronic devices stopped working, during a long winter, humanity would devolve into the Stone Age with a cannibalistic/tribal/anarchist society within a few months instead of reverting to the steam age with an agrarian/hunter/gatherer society with the benefit of all of the advancements we’ve made in every field of non-electronic study.
2. The main character has a daughter at a university some unspecified distance away. His main goal appears to be to get to the university to see if she is still alive. However, he stops for weeks at a time to help anyone he comes across who he believes is innocent and is in peril.
The story of Conrad Scott is basically that a brigadier general of the US Army wakes up in a car crash in a world where all electricity-dependent machines have shut down all at once, without warning. The book is exceptionally violent right from the get go. Conrad’s wife dies in the car next to him, and our protagonist must amputate two of his fingers and scoop out one of his eyes in the first few pages. With the help of an old couple whose house he has broken into, he regains his strength in a few months, by which time society has collapsed. People murder, rape, enslave and cannibalize each other within months of the power going off and Conrad strikes out to find his daughter and right some wrongs along the way. Conrad saves a number of people, falls in love, founds a city-state, fells a number of marauding armies and still has time to make a few friends. I don’t want to ruin the ending, but it is unexpected and confusing and sets up a sequel.
If you’re still on board, and are looking for a violent, detailed, post-apocalyptic novel, this might be what you’re looking for. The author does a good job of creating detailed images of the atrocities that the humans commit against one another. The main character, Conrad, deals out swift and self-righteous justice to the worst offenders and revels in his rampage. While you’re never entirely sure why Conrad is doing the things that he’s doing, you can be sure that the bleak, abhorrent, stomach-churning, not-too-distant future depicted in the book will be dutifully illustrated for you.
This book uses a lot of adjectives and descriptive language, so a potential reader should be comfortable with that. Here is an example from the work:
As he opened the door, the dank vile smell of the room penetrated his every molecule and he repulsed the urge to vomit.
The book’s pacing is a bit odd at times, often taking several paragraphs to chew the scenery of a particular encounter, only to have had weeks go by after the next page break. While the book does have some structure, because of the erratic nature of the protagonist, you might find yourself going back to figure out how he got where he is.
The biggest problem is Conrad himself, who seems to be incredibly loyal to everyone he cares about… Until someone else is in trouble or a wrong needs to be righted. Conrad forgets all of his loyalties and responsibilities (including to his only daughter) as soon as something is out of sorts. It makes it really hard to trust that he is the herculean leader that the people of the wastes seem to revere him as. Further, he seems to revel in his execution of those he deems unworthy. At one point, when helping to found a city-state, he suggests they use Hammurabi’s Code as their form of law and then later espouses that he has been a Christian the whole time.
Fans of the Endworld series or of the works of Richard Marcinko may enjoy this the most. The action sequences are brutally drawn, the vocabulary is deep and the violent details run rampant. Unfortunately, a number of errors, a poorly drawn main character and an at-times unexplainable universe made me rate the book 2.5/5 stars.