Author: Liam Quane
Published: 18th May, 2021
Length: 111,000 words (approx.)
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Fantasy
New York: two years after the Third World War.
Humanity is rebuilding its cities brick by brick; the damage done to the people, however, is a lot harder to repair. Dan Hardacre is one of those people. An aspiring stage actor and experienced draft-dodger, Dan struggles to find his place within the Utopic rebuild of New York City. When he’s not caught up with the duties of work, Dan lives a quiet life in mourning for his mother, Dyani, who went missing when he was a teenager.
One night, Dan experiences a vivid, terrifying nightmare that puts him right on the front lines of the war for which he dodged the draft; it ends with him facing Death itself in the form of a metallic, faceless humanoid creature that calls itself the Valkyrie. To investigate the reason behind his haunting experience, Dan seeks out a meeting with his estranged father, who reveals the startling truth about Dan’s dream: it wasn’t a dream.
With this newfound knowledge and the powers it brings, Dan makes it his mission to return to the scene of his nightmare. However, he soon comes to know that confronting the Valkyrie not only endangers him but the war-withstanding world he leaves behind.
I have so much I want to say about this novel, but most of it would be spoilers. This is an incredible debut from Liam Quane - an author who has brought his scriptwriting and directing talents to the printed page, and his worlds translate very well into this format. It's helpful that the setting for much of Road to Juneau is a near-future/alternate post-apocalyptic New York City, so the reader has a frame of reference, albeit one slightly removed from the NYC we know. In that regard, the author does some light-touch world-building to set the scene, which in first-person present tense feels like Dan Hardacre - the main-character-sort-of-hero - is giving us a guided tour of his hometown, along with a brief history lesson.
So the scene is set. Now, I'm not a fan of post-apocalyptic fiction, and it's important I make it clear that this isn't really post-apocalyptic in terms of themes, merely setting. The story, at its heart (for me) is about unchecked power and (ir)responsibility. Thus, to some extent, Road to Juneau is allegorical - a critical perspective on current affairs as much as the fictional future, and aside from the 'nature' of the central characters, it is a future that's potentially only a step or two from where we are now.
For all of that, the novel isn't hard-hitting political commentary, although there is plenty of politics in it. There's also lots of subtle diversity, wry humour, fantastic adventures on Earth and elsewhere, and a few tear-jerking moments. In short, it's a darned good read - one which I wouldn't usually select as a 'pleasure read' based on genre, but the cover...wow, the cover! That would definitely have captured my interest, so I'd have ended up reading the book even if I hadn't had the privilege of publishing it.
Road to Juneau is an intelligent, entertaining, beautifully written novel for young and not-so-young adults and is available in hardcover, paperback and ebook formats.