Empty Cradle: The Untimely Death of Corey Sanderson by Emmy Jackson

Civilization has fallen, ravaged by apocalyptic wars and an infertility epidemic caused by the Empty Cradle virus. Ivy Aniram, a trader who is also one of the few women untouched by Empty Cradle, makes a deal with Corey Sanderson, a farmboy who longs to escape the isolated rural town of his birth, in order to escape a trap set by that town’s elders. So begins a long and dangerous journey across what used to be America, aided by some and threatened by many. Along the way, Ivy and Corey learn to rely on one another and their new companions… but as the title implies, sometimes even that is not enough.

Emmy Jackson’s story is set against a world of considerable depth and detail, which somehow comes across without any obvious ‘infodumps’ (other than the quotes from the notes of one of the characters, a historian). Unlike many ‘post-apocalyptic’ novels, this is one that is largely persuasive in how it presents life going on and even thriving. It also helps that the pacing of the story is solid, the action when it comes is riveting, and the characters have depth and chemistry. I’m eagerly anticipating the next book in this series.

Wild by Lincoln Crisler

In 1886 El Paso, Matthias Jacoby–a mystery man with a reputation for solving impossible cases–is called upon to find a missing colonel and his son. The trail leads into the New Mexico desert, and Jacoby is accompanied on it by the deputy sheriff who recruited him, a doctor, and an outlaw with essential knowledge and ideas of his own. What they find is much more than they bargained for–black magic and the risen dead.

Lincoln Crisler’s novella is a smooth hybrid of western detective and zombie horror fiction, moving at a fast clip without sacrificing detail or atmosphere. Matthias Jacoby is an engaging character, though we learn very little of his backstory, and the supporting characters hold their own. Short enough to complete in a single sitting, with an accelerating plot that all but demanded I do so, I found Wild to be a lot of fun.

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Gary W. Olson is the author of the dark fantasy novel Brutal Light and several previously published and forthcoming short stories. He can be found via his website, his blog A Taste of Strange, as @gwox on Twitter, and in many other far-flung places on the Internet.