The Reviewer’s Preface.
“And at that time your people shall be delivered,
Everyone who is found written in the book.
And many of those who sleep in the dust
of the earth shall awake,
Some to everlasting life,
Some to shame and everlasting contempt.”
“If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.
It is better for you to enter into life maimed,
rather than having two hands, to go to hell,
into the fire that shall never be quenched—
‘Their worm does not die,
And the fire is not quenched.’
Hereto lies the judgement of the accursed: those who have not fallen asleep in Christ, but in their sins have they fallen asleep.
For the recipient of eternal life is only returned unto the Earth in the glory and blessedness of his indestructible resurrection, while even the inheritor of eternal damnation is returned unto the Earth in the Divine ordinance of his destruction: his decomposition and his spoil.
For no human soul sown in righteousness can be an heir to otherworldly ruination upon the physical death—which is the first death.
But the human soul sown in unrighteousness is already doomed to the corruption of otherworldly ruination upon the physical death—which is the second death.
A human soul, still equipped with its five senses but dwelling within the form of a condemned physical being, would account for the second death. And because such a combined spiritual and physical condemnation is truly beyond the scope of Mankind’s imagination, most tend to refer to such doom by the traditional usage of one ghastly word: Zombie.
The Reviewer’s Critique.
Athens, Ohio—The world is forever changed, no thanks to a deadly parasite known as the Vaca Beber, or Vaca B, which has somehow found its way into the entire U.S. water supply. Some say that the fault lies with American cattle ranchers who had been cutting into the Amazon where the parasite originated; others agree that the U.S. government is actually to blame after it allowed imports from Brazil at the nation’s borders. Of course, those who argue the strain’s cause are those few who have merely survived it. At least for now.
On Saturday, August 12, 1989, our star protagonist, a morbidly obese and miserably unpopular young man named Eric, would celebrate his seventeenth year of life surrounded by his single mother and four of his closest (and only) friends. On Monday, May 14, 1990, Eric’s single mother and his four closest (and only) friends would be dead, succumbed to the Vaca B, leaving the devastated and defenseless Eric to fend for himself and to make his own way in the ultimate struggle for survival.
Everything you thought you knew about the Apocalypse, the end of the world, if you will, is to be considered frivolity. Not until you’ve been held—as if in a Zombie-like death grip—by the momentous post-apocalyptic storyline currently under review will you come to a genuine knowledge of what it really means to be rattled to the marrow of your bones . . . with grievous anguish and mind-altering fear. For Ben Lyle Bedard’s The World Without Crows does not suffer the faint-hearted gladly.
The Long Journey.
After burning down his childhood home containing the infected remains of his mother, Eric sets out to travel on foot to the beautiful coastal state of Maine. Believing that a certain island along the shores of the Atlantic Ocean will be his salvation—and protection—from a cracked Zombie population and murderous gangs formed by snapped survivors, Eric, following a survival guide that he lifted from the now desolate Athens branch library, as well as his trusty map, begins the toilsome 800-mile trek north from Wolf Creek Wilderness through many a state park, national forest, and mountain region on a grueling quest to reach his coveted destination.
But our leading man’s passage through God’s great gardens and landscapes—in search of saftey—will be anything but safe as he is to undergo one horrendously inhumane tribulation after another along his route, including a detestable trial in the human form of a blood-coagulating American Patriot named Carl Doyle.
For a work of fiction with a pagination of only 216, The World Without Crows incorporates a substantial—and surprisingly gifted—cast whose performances on said pages are nothing short of superior. Guaranteed to emboss an imprint of their memory on the reader’s intellect, these supporting players stream into the scenes of Bedard’s deftly composed script—and Eric’s radically changed life—as follows:
• Charlie, a grizzled old man and former librarian with a safe cabin, plenty of preserved books, fresh water, and hot meals to spare Eric. That is, until the venomous Snakes slither in.
• Birdie, an orphaned African American girl of six years with whom Eric falls head over heels in a sort of parental love after nearly shooting her to death during a scavenge for food. Immediately taking her under his guardianship, Eric and Birdie form a sturdy, deeply emotional, and unbreakable bond that will propel her to Eric’s right side as his top-billed supporting lead.
• Sarah, a twenty-something pretty blonde and fellow survivor with a penchant for fishing and cooking. After meeting and conversing with Eric and Birdie, Sarah quickly decides to join them on their journey to Maine.
• Brad, Sarah’s boyfriend and a pistol of a former gang member who, despite his machismo and low blow taunts about Eric’s hefty weight, ultimately concurs to join Eric, Birdie, and Sarah—Maine or bust.
• Cecile, Sharif, Katie, Van, David, Mark, Mary, and Sharon all consist of a small set of survivalists who dwell on a large farm in Cuyahoga Valley National Park and call themselves the “Slow Society.” Taking in Eric, Birdie, Sarah, and Brad after the quartet chance upon the Slow Society camp while diligently trying to escape a madman stalker, it is Cecile who offers the hungry and famished youngsters a dwelling place in the camp, so long as they contribute to manual labor around the farm. A generous gesture indeed were it not for Old Scratch.
• John Martin, a tall and powerfully built African American man from Cleveland, Ohio who encounters Eric while traveling—on foot—to New York. But John Martin is not making the passage alone. In his warm company are two redoubtable individuals who can do nothing short of adding even more sublime appeal to an already breathtaking prose.
• Lucia and Sergio are those two redoubtable individuals. The Hispanic siblings are traveling with their lifesaver John Martin when they, too, meet Eric’s small group, join with them all on their excursion, and skyrocket to stardom status by way of their supreme performances.
• Daniel Sullivan, a green-eyed monster of a religious fanatic, and macabre Shepherd of a demented flock.
• Carl Doyle, an all-American chauvinist, a repulsive race baiter, a Land Rover driver, and a bearish being who will for a surety grant the reader a nightmare. Carl Doyle, a most harrowing dead man walking.
• Kaye Cornplanter and Ms. Good Prince Billy also make cameo appearances: Cornplanter as a Seneca Warrior vowing to take back the Red Man’s land; and Good Prince Billy as a hoary, but tough matron striving to maintain order amongst humanity from the confines of a long ago abandoned Church.
The Reviewer’s Postface.
Mankind’s greatest fears are those of death and destruction. And we, as humans, never know what we’re truly made of until we are faced with those fears. Speaking of which, here, on the shook up pages of Ben Lyle Bedard’s marvelous post-apocalyptic chiller The World Without Crows, Death gallops in on his pale horse. And Hades follows with him.
In the age of many a trendy dystopian narrative, it would perhaps be safe to assume that very few can actually project the world’s end and the total obliteration of nearly all humankind in quite the same way that the consummate Bedard does with The World Without Crows.
An intensely poignant effort, no reader—be he or she Jew or Gentile—will be allowed to follow this clenching plot from beginning to end and then separate from it emotionally unaffected. No, not even one. For the tear duct of the human eye will not resist to shed a salted stream; and the human heart—in all of its life-pumping pomp—will not resist the heavy temptaion of an embittered ache.
Desperation, dark and poetic, is to be the reader’s guide. For the souls of men are to be required of them—regardless of fleshly hue or societal status. Extraordinary is The World Without Crows.
Five . . . let the dead bury their own dead stars.
• It is my kindly pleasure to thank Bedard Publishing, as well as Ben Lyle Bedard himself, for the author-issued copy of The World Without Crows in exchange for my honest review.
Analysis of The World Without Crows by Ben Lyle Bedard is courtesy of Reviews by Cat Ellington: https://catellingtonblog.wordpress.com
Date of Review: Thursday, April 19, 2018