By Carrie Vaughn
As always, I spoil with out warning so be…warned.
I’ve never read any of Ms. Vaughn’s novels. She’s famous for a series in which a werewolf named Kitty hosts a radio talk show for the supernatural. I discovered Bannerless on John Scalzi’s blog, Whatever, and decided to give it a try.
Bannerless has nothing to do with werewolves. Instead, it’s a murder mystery set in a post apocalyptic world. In this world Banners are awarded to families so they can have children. So you can imagine that the murder is probably is relate to that.
I was a little surprised by the premise. Controlling population in a post apocalyptic world is hardly new. But also, I don’t think that population control is as much of a global issue anymore. China has scrapped its one child policy. Most advanced countries are seeing negative birth rates. I suppose it could be that very reason she chose the subject, harkening to an earlier age of sci-fi.
Bannerless is both a mystery and a coming of age story. The main character, our detective, once had a fling as a young woman with a traveling musician. We get her back story and learn about her world, which was destroyed by a series of plagues and superstorms. She’s a play-it-by-the-book type of girl, one who buys into following the post apocalyptic laws. But, it turns out, she was also willing to do a her own personal Rumspringa for this beautiful guitar player. In this post apocalyptic future, most technology is either not available or banned, but everyone has perfect injected birth control (slightly convenient, but OK).
In present-day, she is sent to investigate a death in another town, which may or may not be murder. Her ex (the guitarist) is there (of course), and she has to solve the mystery while she resolves this part of her past.
The story-telling is satisfying. The characters were sympathetic. The mystery was not terribly mysterious, however. It lacked the required level of red herrings, imho. What I wondered at was the setting. To tell this story didn’t need to be set in a post apocalyptic period. I suppose that it makes the science a little harder, no DNA test kits, no phones. Still, it could have been set anywhere or anywhen. Despite all of that, it was a good, quick, enjoyable read.