Verdict: PARCHED sets the stage for a suspenseful saga with well-crafted characters and numerous conflicts yet to be resolved.
In a post-apocalyptic Earth where the sun has become a Red Giant causing extreme heat, massive drought, and near total dissolution of society, the Deforios family are chased from their home in California by armed marauders, and attempt a harrowing passage east to their hometown of Lorain, Ohio.
In this first part of a series, James and Lexie, their infant daughter Charlotte and teenage son Silas contend with the perils of thirst, illness, earthquakes, and violence and deceit as they discover that desperate people are just as dangerous as the environmental conditions. Even the least threatening of individuals proves capable of inflicting terrible harm. As they progress slowly across the devastated landscape hunting for supplies and sustenance, Author Andrew Branham paints a vivid portrait of horror, from a dead family left to mummify in their home to an abandoned zoo littered with animal bones. The Deforios’ arrival at their destination is bittersweet and plunges them immediately into a new journey. As they seek out extended family, they learn of tattered government forces battling bands of roving warlords, providing plenty of possible directions for a sequel.
Branham has done an excellent job crafting this future world as a “black abyss of crime, evil, and debauchery” that nonetheless leaves space for transcendent moments where unexpected help from a stranger or an individual’s love for their family is deeply moving. The tenderness is all the more resonant with the bleakness of the backdrop.
The story is taut and inventive and Branham makes some bold narrative choices, the stakes are high and no one is safe. With shifts in perspective each character is made sympathetic and three dimensional. It is particularly refreshing to see Lexie and Silas portrayed as equally as strong and savvy as James, each capable of holding their own and protecting the family. Branham’s storytelling is only strained by his dialogue, which can be stiff and unnatural and host an excess of unnecessarily gross descriptive detail. When it comes to outlining the difficulties of traveling with an infant in the apocalypse where diapers are scarce, less is more.
PARCHED sets the stage for a suspenseful saga with well-crafted characters and numerous conflicts yet to be resolved.