Monday, December 5, 2011

Book Review: Daystar and Shadow

Book Review: 'Daystar and Shadow' by James B. Johnson

 3 / 5 Stars

 ‘Daystar and Shadow’ is DAW Book No. 427 (206 pp.), released in March 1981; the cover art is by Ken W. Kelly.

Its title is rather corny, and lends itself better to a romance novel than sci-fi, but ‘Daystar’ is actually a pretty good adventure novel. 

It’s set several centuries after WWIII has devastated America. Most of the central region of the nation is a desert wasteland, inhabited by venemous, sand- burrowing ‘fireworms’ that apparently are of extraterrestrial origin. 

Pockets  of civilization survive at El Paso, Taos, Santa Fe, San Diego, and other locales in the Southwest.

The first-person narrator is Robin, aka Daystar, abandoned as an infant in the desert by his family due to his autism. Far from being devoured by the fireworms, Robin is able to establish a telepathic link with them, and not only survives his ordeal, but becomes an accomplished dowser and all-around desert survival specialist. 

Early in his wanderings he encounters Daystar, an autistic girl, and together they become colleagues in identifying underground water sources for exploitation by thirsty cities.

As they progress in their wanderings, Daystar and Shadow grow increasingly aware that the religious sect ruling postapocalyptic America, the New Christian Church, has a particular animus against autistics. There are gruesome public executions of Blasphemers, rumors of abductions, and tales of secret redoubts in the depths of the wastelands. 

What are the New Christians hiding ? What is the reason for their crusade against the autistic segment of the population ? When Daystar and Shadow embark on a  quest to answer these questions, they uncover a conspiracy that involves the fate of the planet…..

Author James R. Johnson writes with a clear, easy style and keeps his chapters short and filled with action. At the same time, ‘Daystar’ has a more imaginative tenor to its narrative than the usual postapocalyptic adventures stories featuring ‘Radioactive Rambos’ (‘The Survivalist’, ‘Endworld’, ‘Death Lands’, etc.). 

Readers who liked classics like ‘Damnation Alley’ or ‘The Postman’ may want to give ‘Daystar and Shadow’ a try.

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