Review by Riley
A SYNTH SEARCHING FOR PURPOSE…
Walk. Scavenge. Destroy. Trade. A simple cycle that’s suited Ronin for one hundred and eighty-five years. With no clear grasp of his programming, the barren wasteland known as The Dust offers him purpose, a place where his armored undercasing, amped-up processors, and advanced optics can be put to use. The ramshackle towns on the edges of the waste serve merely as resupply stations between increasingly long treks. But one night — one human woman — makes him question everything.
A WOMAN WHO BRINGS HIM TO LIFE…
Lara Brooks struggles to survive under the strict rules imposed by the bots in Cheyenne. With her sister missing, she’s been on her own for weeks, and fears the worst. Her only hope comes from Ronin, a bot she catches spying on her. He promises to provide for Lara and search for her sister. All she has to do is dance. It should be easy; she’s done it before. But the longer she spends with Ronin, the harder it is to see him as just another bot.
A SANCTUARY HIDING DARK SECRETS…
In a city where humans are relegated to live in squalor, Ronin discovers a threat greater than any in the Dust — Warlord, Cheyenne’s tyrannical leader. When Ronin ignores the rules, he unwittingly puts Lara in danger. Warlord is as intolerant of disrespect as he is of mankind.
Warning: This book contains foul language, explicit sexual content, and violence and is intended for mature readers only.
Review of Dustwalker
I’ll start this review by saying that Dustwalker is a new book for my favorites shelf! But, it did not start out that way.
I immediately connected with the two main characters. Ronin, or Dustwalker, is the main storyteller in the story. He has been re-activated for 185 years and remembers every minute of every day since then. He maintains his synthetic body by scavenging the post-apocalyptic, desert-like countryside for valuable materials. He is a sentient ‘bot’, modeled on humans. That he appears and acts human is evident from the beginning.
Lara Brooks is a human that has lost her best friend, Tabitha. She was the only family Lara had and now Tabitha is missing and Lara is alone. Lara also survives by scavenging, but she needs to trade for food.
These two characters both appeal to my sympathy as intelligent beings stuck in a horrible setting. Ronin and Lara are both introspective, civilized and, well, interesting. They drew me into the story.
But the first part of the story seemed lacking in plot development. This is why Dustwalker didn’t start out as a favorite. Other than the development of the relationship between Ronin and Lara, I could not see where the story was headed. Ronin often mused about not remembering his purpose, so that was my only hint about a possible direction – maybe Ronin would remember his purpose.
Ronin and Lara live in Cheyenne, Wyoming under the maniacal leadership of Warlord, a bot who has no inclination to look human. Bots live inside the wall with all the conveniences modern, post-apocalyptic technology can provide. Humans live outside the wall, in hovels, tents, trailers, any bit of shelter they can find. Fear and absolute tyranny mark the rule of Warlord. No one crosses Warlord. Warlord versus all the good people was another possible plot direction, but there were no early hints that was the direction of the story.
So why did Dustwalker become a favorite? Three reasons:
Reason number 1: I like character-driven novels and this book fits the bill. Ronin struggles to remember why he was created and re-activated. Ideas hover at the edge of his thought but he never really remembers. Lara is, at first a distraction, and later an obsession. Why does she intrigue him so? Why does Lara stay with Ronin when bots have caused nothing but pain in her life? The focus is so much on these characters that anything else just pulled me a long for the ride.
Reason number 2: I love these characters. Living in a world that is cruel and unmerciful, Lara and Ronin are able to find the individual moments that make the rest unimportant. Whether is is Lara’s dancing or Ronin’s protection of Lara or a shirt sewn for Ronin or a ring, lost and then found again. Really, it’s not all that different from everyday life. Like Ronin and Lara, we pick out the moments of happiness to remember our life is worth living.
Reason number 3: They way the plot ‘appeared’ to me. Yes, there is a plot, well a couple of different plot lines. One is the hard plot, good against evil, and one is softer, a bit more introspective. Both are awesome. Like I said, I focused so much on the characters that when things began to move, I was just drawn along right up until the great movie-worthy showdown at the OK Corral. I really, really like the way this worked for me. Looking back, all the clues were there. So when you read Dustwalker, don’t skip anything.
So here’s a question: Can sentient bots and humans get along? Typical futuristic literature would tell you – no. In Dustwalker, opinions range from the optimistic view of the creators of the synthetics to the militaristic ‘NO’ of Warlord. Lara is human and Ronin is synthetic. They seem to get along, but they also have their struggles. The question won’t be answered until very near the end, so you will have plenty of time to form your own opinion.
Dustwalker is a standalone story (no waiting for a sequel.) It is gritty, emotional, and it is absolutely epic!
I received a copy of Dustwalker from the author so that I could bring you this honest review.
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