Travel Documents 05: Exiles of Babylon

Exiles of Babylon (The Heirs of Babylon Book 1)

Eugene W. Cundiff
Genre: Post-apocolyptic SF, dystopian

 Link To Book

The Dust Cover Copy

In the dying world of 2027, there’s no place worse than Babylon.

The fallen city once known as New York is now ruled by feudal gangs and plagued by doomsday cultists. No sane soul ventures there willingly, but former childhood friends Morgan Whitechapel and Kurt Petrovich have no choice.

Fate once separated the compassionate, streetwise survivor and the brooding son of privilege. But the dangerous attentions their newly-manifested superhuman powers bring force them from their homes and reunite them on the savage streets. Their only hope for survival lies with each other – and with a pair of strange nomads who posses powers of their own. Against all odds, these extraordinary young people will fight to make a new home for themselves in the bones of the Big Apple.

Together, they might just stand a chance…

The Deets

The Scene

Worldbuilding

If Mad Max and Tank Girl had made some friends when they were kids, this could have been the story of their shenanigans. Just throw in a little bit of genetic mutation a la X-men, a hint of Far Cry 5 and a pinch of Gangs Of New York for flavor, and you’ve got the Heirs of Babylon.

The world as we know it is gone and it’s not coming back, but it’s remembered. The cops of New York have reverted to their Irish roots and become a protective gang based out of a pub. (Yeah you read that right. A pub. Serve the green beer. Erin go bragh.)

The bible thumpers have got guns and they kill any post-War kid who turns up with special abilities that they find. It’s a dick move, but since the powers make the kids’ eyes glow, this is somewhat understandable. If you’ve got a mindset that includes demons and kids with glowing eyes turn up… well, human nature will run its course.

The world building is fun and amusingly grim. There are bad guys worth killing, victims worth saving, and relatable events still connected to the world we know closely enough that their distortion holds our interest. We get hints of the great war that broke the American Eagle’s wings and sent it plummeting down, but never so much that we are really sure of our facts. We know only what our characters know, and that isn’t enough.

Heads up, this story may have teen characters, but it’s not YA material. At all. Blood, gore and gritty situations. Sex. The whole enchilada. You were warned.

Like a lot of trope-heavy worlds (think Daredevil, Luke Cage and the like) the tropes occasionally get a little overdone. Irish-Americans lost their Emerald Isle accents a long time ago, but the Irishmen gang sound like they just stepped off the coffin ships. That’s one example. Other characters are giving a second-Dust-Bowl impression, and sometimes they sound like Steinbeck tried to collaborate with Steven King. It gets a touch beyond belief, but like Tank Girl and Mad Max, the camp is part of the charm. If camp isn’t your thing, it may grate on you. For fans, you’ll enjoy.

The Crowd

Characterization

I kind of love these characters. The kids are sweet and broken in all the right ways. My heart goes out to Mory, the kind of girl who’d give you the shirt off her back and has given everyone else the vitality in her body, healing others at her own expense. Kurt’s an uncomplicated character, but he has his charms.  Ric’s musical references and his laid-back insanity are a treat. Jen practically is Tank Girl, if Tank Girl was a little smarter and Asian. The banter the two of them come out with is one of the highlights in the book. Feast your eyes:

T.J. needs a hug. Ronnie needs a slap. When you start feeling like this about characters, the writer did their work well.

The side characters are interesting, well-suited to their roles and well-shaped by their conditions. They don’t have incredible depth, but they don’t really need it. They color the world and round it out perfectly.

The Moves

Plot

It’s not complicated and it doesn’t need to be. Children work to build a new world from the ashes of their forbears. It’s an old story and it’s a true one. The pacing is nice and steady, the character development is good throughout and the slower scenes are well-balanced with the more energetic murder-romps. The events are nicely placed to be both believable and fresh, and it’s fun watching the characters realize that they’ve just stepped in something about the time they’re up to their necks in it. Throughout the events, a strong message runs: when we stop having empathy, we stop being human. No matter how bad things get, our humanity-and by extension, our brother-is worth the effort to keep. I’ve already got Books 2 and 3 and am looking forward to diving in.

The Lingo

Writing style

Eh….sadly, this is where the Heirs tend to trip and go sprawling. But the story can still pick itself up.

The first stumble is in word choice. Like I said, you get a Second-Dust-Bowl feel, but frankly Steinbeck’s been dead for a while. His style doesn’t really fit a dystopian New York. Overloading sentences with more adjectives than it needs is a common problem, as is the very formal narration pattern. The phrasing tends to be stiff, creating sentences that don’t flow smoothly.  It’s not an insurmountable issue, but it does make the story a little hard to get into. As a reader my sense of place got broken a couple times by a street kid who spoke like a theologian.

Beyond that, this book needs more line editing. I want to support indies here, but as indies we’ve got a duty to get things right. When one indie book has typos, one more reader says ‘this is why I don’t read self-published stuff’.

Now don’t get me wrong. I like this series. I just wish I didn’t have to work as a reader to keep liking it.

As a last note, a pet peeve of mine. A lot of songs get referenced in passing, but we don’t get either a song lyric or a title. The most the author tosses us is  a song writer’s name. That means when a character  exclaims ‘oh I know that song!’ I the reader grumble ‘well I don’t, dammit.’ I love songs and pop culture used in stories. I do it constantly as an author myself. But the incomplete references in this book drove me bonkers. Song lyrics are seen by many authors as a no-no, and the proponents of that view have a point. But please, please give your poor readers some orientation when you make a pop-culture reference, I’m begging you here. I’m going to be racking my brains for a week figuring some of these out.

The Vibe

Overall Rating

Fun, grim, sassy and surprisingly sweet at the heart, this is the perfect answer to the age we’re living in. It needs a little polishing still, but it is a gem. After you get through the craziness of the news pick this series up and enjoy.