The Wild Dead, by Carrie Vaughn, is the second book in the Bannerless series. It’s part of a new wave of popular science fiction that, at its core, is about fertility and parenting.
A very different kind of post apocalyptic world is imagined by Vaughn, one where people have figured out how to live together in peace with each other and the earth.
Set around 100 years after ‘the Fall’, an event which is never fully explained but which resulted in the destruction of all major cities and most technology, Enid is an investigator sent to adjudicate a local dispute over a derelict house.
What looked like a simple matter in a remote community – perfect for her brand-new investigation partner to cut his teeth on – soon turns sinister when the body of an outsider washes up onto the beach.
Now Enid has a murder investigation on her hands.
In the ‘Bannerless’ world communities are legally obliged to help each other. This particular community calls in outside investigators because they believe the derelict house isn’t worth the work and resources, even though Erik – the caretaker – is desperate to save the house that his father spent all his life mending and preserving.
I love that The Wild Dead is a different kind of imagined future where society is good and peaceful despite external challenges. They saved knowledge of medicine and renewable energy – there are solar cars and solar hot water – but no weapons. Investigators (essentially the police force) carry a wooden staff and tranquiliser patches for defence instead of guns.
Murder is rare and horrifying. Enid has only ever worked one murder case before.
Even when the murdered woman turns out to be an outsider, this changes very little. Especially in our current-day international climate, the attitude toward outsiders is so refreshing:
If someone came stumbling into a town asking for help, people were supposed to help, no matter what.
Taking an interest in the welfare of others is such a core habit of this integrated community that Enid finds it hard to restrain herself while on a case:
Investigators didn’t much socialize while in uniform. One of the hardest parts of their training was learning not to apologize for it.
My absolute favourite line of the whole book is when Enid is challenged about why she even cares to investigate the murder. Why can’t she just leave it alone?:
“Because it’s right to care.”
Caring is hard and exhausting and sometimes unpleasant. But it’s also rewarding. And it’s right. How nice would it be if we could come to this realisation without needing to go through an apocalypse first?
Social status in the ‘Bannerless’ world is not tied to accumulation of wealth. It’s not a fast car, fancy house or expensive clothes that households strive towards. The ultimate prize is earning the right to have a baby:
A banner. What it all came down to, in the end. A household came together, worked hard, proved that the members could take care of one another, manage themselves, not waste resources, and then the regional committee would award them a banner. the right to have a child. Households, quotas, trade, investigations, all of it went toward proving you could successfully bring a new human being into the world.
I loved Book 2 so much that I bought myself a copy of Book 1, simply called ‘Bannerless’. I’m about halfway through and loving it so far!
Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher for the purpose of review. This post contains affiliate links.