South by Frank Owen book review

It’s the Civil War all over again in Frank Owen’s South

In an alternate USA that has become a lawless wasteland thanks to a devastating virus unleashed by the North during a second Civil War, its southern residents do their best to navigate a world that has gone to hell. Among them are brothers Dyce and Garrett, who are fleeing the redneck hillbilly Callahan clan, and lone traveller Vida, who has her own quest to complete – one that will see her crash headlong into the two brothers and change all their lives.

Slow-burning for a post-apocalyptic story, little is given away early on in South, allowing readers to draw their own conclusions about why the world has ended up this way. Little is given away about the core characters apart from what’s driving them; their back stories are embellished upon throughout.

But while other similar stories aren’t afraid to show a little light, South is almost always dark, as if determined to show the consequences of humanity forgetting itself. Much of this is demonstrated by disclosed origins of this new world disorder, caused largely by the emergence of a hate-filled, ultra-isolationist new political party. Scarily relevant doesn’t cover it.

Even more scarily, there is no answer. Once humanity has damned itself, that is it. There’s no help, and all that’s left is for us to face the consequences.

This sense of dread is maintained with efficiency, designed as an origin tale upon which to nail the basis for future stories, it does feel like something’s missing here, as if it is only a third of a complete tale. Still, if this is intended as an origin story then we can safely say that it’s job well done on that front.