Friday, May 23, 2014

Review: After the Parch - Sheldon Greene

A copy was provided by the Author
in exchange for
an honest review.
After the Parch by Sheldon Greene
Genre: YA, futuristic
Published on March 21, 2014
Published by Strategic Book Publishing
Pages: 220
Read From: 5.10.14 - 5.11.14

It's 2075. The USA has broken up and California has become an Independent refuge dominated by a single omnipotent corporation. Eighteen-year-old Bran, a shepherd, is given a mission to traverse the California Republic in ten days, in order to save his rural community from forfeiting its land. 
On the way, he teams up with a seventeen-year-old girl who has the skills and prowess of a warrior, an eleven-year-old wild boy with uncanny survival skills, and a wandering musician with a secret revolutionary agenda. 
After the Parch is a fast-paced, vivid, dystopian fantasy with a chilling resemblance to the way we are, and a vision of what we might become. It's a well-crafted story and the plot flows naturally from one crisis to another, with three-dimensional characters right up to the taut and positive climax.


Cover Blurb: Yes or No? The cover is quite boring, and I don't quite understand it. Is it supposed to be cracked dirt? Dry twigs? Veins?

Characters: The back of this book promised three-dimensional characters, and thus presumably characters that I would love and care about. The back cover lied. Big time. I did not care one iota about Bran the protagonist, June the seventeen-year-old slut, Nikanor the fiddler with a secret rebellion, Ephus the twelve-year-old wild boy, or Jonah the less-than-honest traveling actor and magician. I just plain didn't care! They all blended into one, or in the case of June (and Bran, for that matter), they were slutty. The Author tried to go for a strong rebel leader type personality in Nikanor, and if it had been someone else writing him, I think I could have really come to like him. June, at least, didn't have a bitchy attitude or a chip on her shoulder, but that was a small favor given everything else. There are no real villains in this book; none that you can remember the name of or even what they're trying to accomplish. The "all powerful" corporation is even entirely forgettable, as is their agenda, because the Author never tells you.

The Romance: There is no romance; it's all lust. Love and commitment have nothing to do with it. It's all down to repopulating the earth and all that. Does it take up a lot of the story's time? Oh yes. Bran notices June's superior body, right along with every other dirty male in this book, and the only reason he doesn't succumb to sleeping with June sooner is because . . . . well, it actually doesn't say. Maybe it can be assumed he feels some very minor commitment to his current girl, but I doubt it.

Plot: Quite honestly, I don't know what the plot was. Bran is traveling to Los Angeles (I think) to buy some sort of land permit for the little community he lives in, so some random corporation doesn't push in and start mining the land. Along the way, he runs into some people that tag along and have their own storylines that go absolutely nowhere. The world building in After the Parch sucked, to be quite honest. It simply wasn't there. It was like the Author assumed that if you read the synopsis (which obviously you did), then you knew all you needed to know about this 2075-era USA, and he didn't need to do any further explaining in the actual story. The synopsis says there's this all-powerful corporation controlling California now, but that's never actually made clear in the book, nor is it ever made clear what the corporation is even trying to accomplish. The origins of the massive drought are explained in a totally convoluted, insensible manner. There's some talk about a giant earthquake, which caused a nearby nuclear power plant to go into meltdown, which then somehow led to a flu outbreak that couldn't be cured. So California was quarantined, and then everyone started shipping their criminals down there, and that all somehow led to how California is now in the book. However, it's never at all made clear if any of those disasters are linked. Did the nuclear meltdown cause the drought? Did it cause the flu? Did an overpopulation of criminals make the rain dry up? The Author had a couple of really good ideas in the story, but didn't do anything with them. There was, for instance, the school that Bran and his friends find June. It's a school where they train girls - and young boys - to be companions to rich people. Totally creepy; doesn't go anywhere. Then they run into these people that steal other people and sell them as labor, and if the person is too old, they harvest their organs and use the ashes of their burnt body for fertilizer. Totally creepy; doesn't go anywhere. The rebellion doesn't go anywhere, either. Their sole purpose seems to be to bail Bran out when he gets into a tight spot, and then give him a lift home so he gets the permit in time. How boring!

Believability: I don't even know where to begin. None of it was believable. Corporations don't have private armies. There is no rhyme or reason for the government to suddenly ship their criminals to California. The massive drought isn't explained, and therefore makes no sense. Everyone is supposed to be starving, and yet there seems to be an awful lot of obese people.

Writing Style: Third person, present tense. The style itself wasn't necessarily bad, though the Author seems to have some personal vendetta against the comma, and his accents were totally inconsistent and absurd. The Author also took every opportunity he could to use the word "groin," "buttocks," "thigh," and "breasts." Some of his similes were seriously disturbing (example below), and never, ever should the word "scrotum" ever appear in a book. There's just some words you don't write. Oh yes, and peeing scenes. Again, another example below.

"I sure try to," says Nikanor with the embryo of a laugh. (pg. 119)
"Excuse me," says June and she walks away, drops her pants and relieves herself. [Bran] sits down on a soft hummock of dried grass and listens to her stream sizzling against a rock. (pg. 154) 

Content: Ephus, the eleven-year-old boy, has sex with one of the girls at the school (pg. 42). I do not care how you try to explain it away; it is purely disgusting to have an eleven-year-old boy have sex. He is a child! Not only that, but of course Bran and June sleep together (pg. 154). And it's graphic. On top of these scenes, the Author takes every opportunity he can to describe June's perfectly formed buttocks, breasts, and thighs. Dude, stop being a pervert! We don't want to read it!

Conclusion: As boring as the rest of it. One thing surprised me about this book: considering the Author is a lawyer and an executive in a wind energy company, I expected a lot more bashing of corporations and green talk. However, the Author was too busy writing sex scenes and being perverted that he didn't have time. After the Parch annoyed me. It was boring, it was sleezy, it had no good characters, and it fell more in the category of New Adult than Young Adult. And as my Review Policy states, I don't do New Adult. This was a waste of my time.

Recommended Audience: I wouldn't recommend this to anyone, and certainly not teens. And to close this review off, I'm going to share one more "favorite" quote:

The ascent grows steeper and the switchbacks in the path pass through groves of live oak yielding to sparse fir and sides of a bowl into a wide, mutilated valley. Earth slides and erosion have taken great bites out of the hills, leaving pocks from which protrude the torn muscle and bone of the earth. Skeletons of fallen trees, their roots twisted in anguish, lay upturned on the slopes or in great tangles. In the notch of the valley a river, yellow with mud, moves like sludge over the surface of its stone and silt-filled bed, watched over by isolated laurels and cottonwoods. To Bran it is like discovering a body abandoned and decaying by the road. Nikanor explains that the forest was clear-cut after the Parch to provide housing for the homeless and never replanted. (pg. 33)

Where's the crying American Indian?


  1. Another view by a reader who bought the book:
    I found Sheldon Greene's book, "After the Parch" to be a gripping, life and death fable, leaving the reader with real life issues to ponder - the role of government, environmental degradation, corporate greed, power, vulnerability, and inter connectedness. The need to leave one's safe environs for a "prize" became a quest into a potentially life threatening unknown world - without map or manual. The quest is compelling, as drama and disaster strikes at each leg of the journey with just enough help from strangers to find a way forward.

    It was an easy read, thought provoking, and filled with fascinating characters who appeared suddenly on the scene, often radically changing the course of events. What comes to mind as a description is "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" meets "The Road". Although set in a post-cataclysmic world where California is a failed state after earthquake, nuclear contamination, and corporate greed have ravaged California's land 60 years into the future, it never devolves into a tortuous, "the bad is out there" tale of woe.

    Sheldon Greene has an ability to keep the fable-like frame going and like Indiana Jones, there are spell binding coincidences, scores of near misses, super human escapes from doom, and characters to love, hate, and wonder about. It was a page turner. It is rich enough and creative enough for anyone to ponder the meaning of the tale long after putting the book down. I'm ready to read another one of his novels.
    Marieanne Gunther Murphy

    1. Yes, there are no shortage of people who are in the wrong about a great many things.


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