Friday, March 30, 2018

Book-A-Day 2018 #89: Nothing Left to Lose by Dan Wells

This is the end. (My only friend, the end!)

After five previous books, organized into two trilogies (of mostly-independent books), John Wayne Cleaver's years hunting inhuman monsters are finally over at the end of Nothing Left to Lose.

(Is that a spoiler? I think the title gives it away to begin with.)

To catch up, you might want to take a gander at what I wrote about the first trilogy, The Devil's Only Friend, and Over Your Dead Body.

But, to sum up: John is a teenage sociopath. He doesn't feel the normal emotional connections to other people, and he has other serial-killer markers: he fantasizes, sometimes uncontrollably, about killing people and starting fires. And, in the first book, he learned that there are evil post-humans in the world, who partook in a supernatural ritual ten thousand years ago, losing some essential piece of themselves forever and gaining horrible power and endless life in return. Each one of them is different: they all gave up something particular, and got related benefits and defects because of it. Those monsters are variously called the Withered or Blessed, depending on how negative they're feeling at the moment, and they have to kill regularly for various reasons related to their inhuman conditions. John discovers they exist, and soon after learns that they can be killed, by killing the one he discovered.

That was a couple of years ago. John has spent the time since then mostly hunting down and destroying the Withered, first alone, then briefly as part of an FBI team, and then alone again once the monsters slaughtered pretty much all of the FBI agents. He's still just eighteen, and was very far from neurotypical even before he dedicated his life to killing immortal monsters with bizarre powers.

As Nothing Left to Lose opens, John has arrived in Lewisville, Arizona -- barely more than a dot on the map -- because an old lady died from drowning in the middle of her living room. He's been wandering semi-aimlessly, looking for weird deaths and checking to see if a Withered was responsible, for some time now. And, to get to see this body, he ends up at Ottessen Brothers Funeral Home.

It turns out that John has been really good at hunting Withered, and that there were fewer left than he expected. (Leave aside the question of why all of them are in the USA; popular fiction here is always all about the USA.) So this is the endgame, and the last few Withered aren't going to go quietly. And they know John has been hunting them.

Dan Wells ends this series well here -- I probably shouldn't say much more than that. I've already said more than I probably should; the book itself doesn't say it's the end of the series. But this is the end of the story of John and the Withered: the story that begin in I Am Not a Serial Killer ends here. These are excellent contemporary fantasy/horror novels with a compelling protagonist who tells his story well in first person. I like this series a lot: it's a great entertainment with excellent characters.

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