Review Blog

May 02 2018

Bannerless by Carrie Vaughn

cover image

John Joseph Adams/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017. ISBN 9780544947306
(Age: 15+) Recommended. Philip K. Dick Award (2017). Themes: Dystopian fiction, Science fiction, Murder, Birth control. Years after an environmental disaster has devastated the world, killing millions, the Coast Road in the US has developed a thriving culture, where birth control is mandatory and people must earn a banner if they want to have a child. In Haven, Enid has not only earned a banner but is an Investigator, helping to solve problems and mediate when necessary. When there is a suspected murder in another town she is sent to investigate and uncovers more than she was anticipating.
Bannerless is a sometimes bleak and very different take on a dystopian future, with less emphasis on solving a crime but exploring a society that allowed it to happen. Through a series of flashbacks the reader follows the progress of Enid as she grows from a restless young woman roaming the roads with Dak to a responsible member of her community trusted to obey the laws that allow it to flourish and to enforce them if necessary. People live together in small groups, grow their own food and look after each other, putting the needs of the community before individual needs. Cities no longer exist and much of the technological knowledge that ruled the world before its downfall has disappeared. The Coast Road people managed to salvage what knowledge they thought was most important, birth control being one of the major needs.
Vaughan, better known for her Kitty series, featuring a werewolf, shows off her writing ability in Bannerless, bringing alive a different and unique take on a dystopian future. Its themes of birth control, self sufficiency, sharing and group living, as well as the ethics surrounding the murder of a loner, make it a fascinating and memorable read.
Pat Pledger

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