Fourth Quadrant – W. Michael Gear – Wolfpack HC $28.00 – 9781639773015 – 5/2022

This book continues the story begun in Dissolution following the outcome of an international banking collapse and corruption of the entire internet banking system. We are reintroduced to some of the characters from the previous book and meet new ones as well. Here, Lauren Davis, a young woman working in a bank in Colorado Springs is startled to find several million dollars in the account of an elderly woman wishing to withdraw a few hundred from her meager savings. As other tellers begin muttering about obviously incorrect figures appearing on their screens, one of the supervisors quietly approaches her and tells her to pull all her cash out and leave town, quickly. Thus begins her transformation from a normal existence to one of violence and moral ambiguity that challenges her very basis of belief in herself and the world.

As society unravels and people resort to brutality and aggression to either stay alive or profit from the chaos, Lauren speeds north to her home in Wyoming, dodging brigands who take advantage of the lawlessness to murder, rape and rob. When she finally reaches the border and having demonstrated her legitimate claim to be Wyoming girl, she volunteers to use her skills with her motorcycle to become a runner delivering food, water, ammo and whatever else to the border guards, founded once it became clear that everyone in Colorado wanted to escape the conflagration on the Front Range. As a result she becomes embroiled in a life and death struggle that shakes her morals to their foundations. Having been both the victim and the perpetrator of fatal violence, she descends into a hell of self-doubt and depression. She is reunited with a childhood friend, many years estranged and finds salvation of a sort, but no peace.

It is easy to write “this is a page turner you can’t put down” but in this case the phrase is apt. If you don’t get a nervous stomach reading this, afraid every minute about what will happen or not happen, you’re not paying attention. With vivid characters, non-stop action and a philosophical question at the root of all of it, this book delivers on several levels. It has all the greater “punch” because everything is completely believable. The reader does not doubt that all of this could very well happen. We have fallen into a state where we take for granted that our neighbors and others in our society will act, if not totally morally, at least with a modicum of civility, to the extent that we don’t murder each other over food, water and gasoline. When that certainty of safety is removed, the world becomes a frightening and disheartening place. How we deal with it can mean the difference between life and death, and between decency and indecency.

Shelf Talker: The post-apocalyptic outcome of an international banking failure thrusts the world into a violent struggle for existence and brings into question the meaning of what it is to “do the right thing”. Eric Boss for Read The West