I read a book: Orchard of Skeletons, by Eli Wilde

I read a book of poetry written from the perspective of a vampire by Eli Wilde not too long ago. I wrote a brief review stating that I liked parts of it, but it fell a bit short for me. I rated it 3/5 because there was plenty that I did like about it. The author saw my review and offered me the opportunity to read his upcoming dystopian horror novel, Orchard of Skeletons. I read the synopsis on Goodreads and accepted.

Let me tell you, the synopsis does not do this book justice. The story is told from the perspective of a young man, who is initially unnamed, making his way through life in a dystopian future. Most of humanity was killed off by a sickness long ago. The remaining humans are mostly infertile, making fertile people (especially women) a hot commodity. Babies and fertile people are regularly kidnapped and sold to the Mountain People, remnants of a previous generation who fled the pandemic and hid under a mountain. The Mountain People didn’t anticipate the impending infertility crisis and now resort to kidnapping women and breeding them repeatedly to keep the population from dying out completely.

This story begins with our narrator, later given the name Isaac, telling us about his position as a mechanic at Sloan’s garage. He tells us that he is paid in crap food, beer, and sex with the owner’s daughter Macy. Sloan uses her to pay off his gambling debt and apparently his employees salaries. Macy’s entire existence before meeting Isaac has been inside her bedroom, waiting for meal time and whatever “guests” Sloan sent in.

One of those frequent visitors is a man named Finch, Sloan’s brother. Finch is as nasty as they come, a man made for survival in their world. He is known far and wide as the guy who doesn’t just take his vengeance on anyone who crosses him, he makes sure everyone around knows it. He likes to chop off and barbecue (and eat) the limbs of living people. He leaves heads and torsos lying around and burns buildings and vehicles to the ground as added warning. You know, in case anyone isn’t terrified of being dismembered and eaten while they’re still alive. It’s very effective and plays a big part in this story.

Isaac’s visits with Macy are different from the rest. She finds herself attached to him because he treats her like a person, something to which she is unaccustomed. They get to a point where they sort of acknowledge that there’s something different about their relationship, and then they find themselves in a predicament. Sloan and his wife are dead and they need to run or face Finch’s wrath. Unfortunately, neither of them have any real life experience so they have no idea what to take with them or where to go or anything practical. They steal some cash (which is no longer valuable to anyone other than Sloan) and a solar powered Mustang. Isaac’s driving skills are limited to moving cars around the garage, but he gets the hang of it and they are on their way to the beach, despite neither of them knowing where that is or if it’s even a real place. The rest of the book details their journey, the people (and replicants) they meet along the way, and the Finch’s relentless pursuit. He has plans for them and will not be stopped.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ for me. This was really good. The writing style evolves with the narrator. In the beginning it is simplistic and aloof, but as the story progresses and Isaac forms relationships and grows as a person, it reflects his growth. Orchard of Skeletons is the book Isaac wrote to chronicle their journey. Is that a spoiler? Whoops. I’m sure I’ll be reading more of Wilde’s work.

Big thanks to Eli Wilde for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review. You can pre-order Orchard of Skeletons on Amazon and begin reading it on March 27, 2023.