It’s been a while since I’ve read anything as original (and yet still somehow familiar) as ‘The Vagrant’ by Peter Newman. Set in a futuristic dystopia where unnatural, abstract demons prowl a broken landscape in search of…food? No, not just food…living beings to inhabit and manipulate? The seven angelic beings who are the last hope for the mortal world? Yes, in fact, all of those things.
Now, I should say that I’ve had this one on my TBR list for a while. I wanted to read it, heard a lot of good things, and wanted to check it out. But I’d heard so many dark things about it, how bleak and depressing it was, how violent and just really, really grim the story was. And so I put it off. And, since I am now done reading this little abstract and subtle oddity, I’m a little disappointed at myself. The setting in The Vagrant may be dark, it might be a demon ravaged landscape full of soul possessing monsters, but the story itself is not dark. It’s full of light and hope, about a hero struggling to be better than the broken world around him.
It is the story of a man, a baby, and a goat.
Oh, and the man is a mute. Not only is he a mute, but he’s a nameless drifter with a winged, singing sword.
There are some elements to the writing that might give you pause. It’s written in present tense. You’ll need to hit the ground running when you start, but don’t worry, explanations will unravel around you. The infernal monsters are abstract, don’t expect hard definitions to their form or function. The style lets you fill in the nightmarish aspects on your own, with just enough hints to keep you significantly repulsed. It’s like when you’re camping, and you hear a noise in the woods. Pass your flashlight over the shadows, but you know there’s something lurking just beyond, just out of sight.
The world itself is a great mix of sci-fi and fantasy. Knights, swords, and demons mixed in with tanks, plastic, med kits, and one tiny little flash from a rocket launcher. The blend is near perfect, though. As a fantasy fan, it was a bit jarring at first, but I quickly became adjusted, letting go of a few of my personal
biases preferences for such a great story. Is it dark, violent, and bloody? Yep. Are the demons wearing the corpses of the fallen as they hunt for the Vagrant across the broken terrain? Absolutely. Is it still a tale of hope and rising above the spreading darkness? In every way.
The second book in the series (The Malice) is out now, and I’m not going to put it off nearly as long.
Seriously, this little review might sound a bit odd, but The Vagrant is worth every moment. Plus, did I mention there’s a goat?