BY THE FEET OF MEN / AUTHOR: GRANT PRICE / PUBLISHER: COSMIC EGG BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: AUGUST 30th
An apparently man-made climatic catastrophe known as ‘the change’ has wrought appalling societal changes to the world’s infrastructure. Cities have crumbled, the population has been decimated, and the environment is blasted and largely uninhabitable. Survivors eke out a miserable, grubby, and brutally violent existence in disparate, isolated communities as the human race slides slowly towards extinction in a world no longer able or, it seems, willing, to support it. Welcome to tomorrow.
Runners - truck drivers who toil through the chaos - help keep the survivors alive by delivering supplies and essentials to the struggling communities in exchange for a percentage and a few scraps of food. Ghazi and Cassady are two such Runners, their battered pantechnicon Warspite carrying them across a devastated Europe, warily keeping one step ahead of the ruthless, desperate scavengers and outsiders lurking in the barren wilderness. At one pit stop in Germany Ghazi and Cassady - who is suffering from his own potentially debilitating crisis of confidence - are enlisted along with a random ragtag collection of fellow Runners to make a perilous and possibly impossible journey across incredibly dangerous terrain to deliver essential medical supplies to a research facility hidden deep in the Italian desert where, it’s rumoured, a machine is being built which could reserve the effects of ‘the change’.
Grant Price has crafted a gripping, evocative future thriller packed with high octane action which isn’t afraid to confront difficult issues and address moral imperatives we’re familiar with in today’s the increasingly loud and lurid world. Price’s dystopian future is all too credible and he reminds us how easily the world we take for granted can be brought to its knees by our own stupidity and our inability to understand our place in the scheme of things. It’s a gritty, densely written story that takes its time setting up this unpleasant new world order and establishing its cast of characters - Ghazi and Cassady are the story’s voices but there’s no shortage of rich, colourful supporting characters - and when the convoy of Runners sets out on its unenviable journey across a pitiless landscape we’re off on a gripping, tortuous adventure where no-one’s safety is guaranteed and where violence lurks at every and any corner. During their journey the Runners encounter snipers, starving nomads, an animalistic cult (one of the book’s most powerful and pulsating action scenes), gun-wielding Terminator-like exosuits, hostile and unforgiving weather conditions and, eventually, a rogue city-state that throws everything it has at the convoy to stop it reaching its destination.
By the Feet of Men is a towering achievement that pulls no punches. This is a grim, unpleasant, and uncomfortable world. Ghazi and Cassady, filthy and unkempt, their clothes crawling with lice, are tested to their limits and beyond as they and the other mismatched Runners battle to complete a mission which may well determine the future of the human race. The book quickly finds its feet after a slightly meandering first handful of chapters and the ending is bittersweet at best but this is a tough, uncompromising book that paints a dispiriting picture of the sort of future we seem to be intent on making for ourselves.