"There are a lot of secrets that go into making a world, Sam."
In Eric Shonkwiler's cool and gritty 8th Street Power and Light (MG Press, 2016) the author of the moving novel Above All Men once again explores the impact of apocalyptic events on the human soul. In 8th Street, the devastating aurora is in the recent past and rebuilding has begun. A small but determined group have reclaimed a city grid, working with whatever they have to restore a sense of order, give people jobs and housing, and keep the power on. It is a bleak and spare world, but these square blocks offer considerably more promise than the wasteland beyond.
Samuel Parrish returns to the city after a time away, exiled after a confrontation gone wrong ended in violence. He is welcomed back to the team as a security agent of sorts. He walks the city, street by street, policing for drug use and other criminal activity. But as he comes to know his city again, he also uncovers profound corruption that calls the morality of his community and its leaders into question. Parrish, anguished by what he discovers and who he finds responsible, embarks on a lone quest to set things right.
8th Street has aptly been described as noir, describing well the precision of Shonkwiler's writing, the setting of the novel, and the core of Parrish's character. Parrish is tough yet tender, righteous but violent. There are bars, fights and stand-offs, and Parrish never once loses his composure. It's a good read for style alone, but as in his last novel, the author also immerses the reader into a world and situations that compel her to consider larger questions of the human condition. Is corruption inevitable in every society? What trade-offs are acceptable in pursuing the greater good? It has been a few weeks since I finished reading, and have been letting my thoughts perk as - between hurricanes and elections - the real world is feeling a bit apocalyptic itself. A good reading companion for uncertain times.
I received a complimentary copy of 8th Street Power & Light from the publisher. Happy reading!