Bite by K S Merbeth
Kid is trying to survive in a world gone mad. Hungry, thirsty and alone in a desert wasteland, she’s picked up on the side of the road by Wolf, Dolly, Tank and Pretty Boy – outlaws with big reputations and even bigger guns. But as they journey across the wild together, Kid learns that her newfound crew may not be the heroes she was hoping for. And in a world that’s lost its humanity, everyone has a bit of monster within them…
Picture this, the world has gone to Hell in a hand cart. Three hot meals and a comfortable place to sleep are nothing but a distant memory. Society has all but collapsed, and what remains has devolved into chaos. Everywhere bands of bloodthirsty raiders travel the radioactive wastelands killing and, if you’re really unlucky, eating you. The choices you have left are more than a little limited. In fact, there is really only one question left to answer – what exactly would you be prepared to do in order to survive? This is the question that Kid keeps asking herself. Completely alone and miles from anywhere she has a simple choice – accept a ride from a group of outlaws or die.
The group Kid takes up with are a colourful bunch. Wolf, their leader, can probably best be described as a maniac with a preference for blowing stuff up. Dolly looks fragile and ill-equipped for life on the road and though she is utterly broken she is also hopelessly violent and psychopathic. Tank is a huge, flabby beast of a man who enjoys the simpler things in life, like eating… anything or anyone. Finally, there is Pretty Boy – handsome, enigmatic and completely self-absorbed. Kid is adopted by this dysfunctional little family and after a while realises that they’re exactly what has been missing from her existence. In their own uniquely twisted way they all care for one another and are trying their hardest to get by.
There is a wonderful, evocative quality to this novel’s narrative that really struck a chord with me. It was so easy to picture the desolate wastelands and the trashed villages and bunkers. This is the literary equivalent of post-apocalyptic action in crystal clear, widescreen HD. It is never revealed exactly where in the world this story actually takes place, but I have to admit I was going full Mad Max on this one and picturing the Australian Outback. It just all seemed to fit perfectly.
I loved Bite. From the moment Kid meets her new friends, to the final pages there is a constant rollercoaster of chases, explosions, double dealing and backstabbing. The group aren’t big on talking, or planning for that matter. If you join “the sharks”, it’s gonna be all about the action and rolling with the punches. Merbeth does a top job of keeping things moving. There is a frenetic, punchy quality to the writing that keeps the plot rumbling along at speed. Following this group of raiders as they from one epic screw-up to another is great fun. Talk about living in the moment. I suppose when you have nothing left to lose that offers a certain amount of freedom about your next decision.
My only criticism, and it is a minor one, is that I’d love this book to be just a bit longer. It felt like I had only just scratched the surface of this chaotic world. I wanted to explore further and shed some light on each of the character’s murky past lives. I also want to know what happens next. Will there be more tales from the wasteland? I hope so, I’d certainly read them. Let be clear here, Bite ain’t Shakespeare but then it ain’t supposed to be. Bite is pure undiluted high octane anarchy.
It won’t surprise you when I admit that I’m a huge fan of post-apocalyptic fiction. I have an insatiable curiosity about what would happen to humanity if we came within a gnat’s breath of our ultimate destruction. I think this novel proves one undeniable truth. When it comes to the end of the world, there is a hell of a difference between living and surviving. If I had the choice, I think I’d happily join any group who are willing to suck the marrow out of life (metaphorically speaking). If you enjoy movies like the aforementioned Mad Max: Fury Road, or games like Fallout 4 and Borderlands, then Bite is the book for you. Gleefully unrestrained and unrelenting, strap yourself in and enjoy the ride. Bite is here, let the mayhem commence!
Bite is published by Orbit and is available from 26th July. Well worth raiding your cap stash for.