Friday, June 17, 2016

Short Fiction Friday: The Emperor's Railroad by Guy Haley

In the not so distant future, in a world where the dead walk and the angels rule everything, a boy and his mother undertake a treacherous journey to find their only living relative. The only thing standing between them and an army of zombies (and worse) is a knight who refuses to wear his badge.

Quinn is an agent of the angels, one of the only remaining knights in existence. But in the wake of the war and following the death of the Emperor, there's not much for a knight to do - officially. Which is fortunate for Abney and his mother. After their town was decimated, they took to the road to find Abney's mother's cousin, in the hopes that he'll offer them safe haven. But it's been some years since they last heard from the man and the journey will take them through some of the most dangerous landscape in their region.

The story is actually told from Abney's perspective some years after the events take place: he's now an older man, recounting the tale and preserving a piece of Quinn's history and legend. Which is a fabulous way to begin the Dreaming Cities series and a great premise overall - a chronicle of a man who has become legend in a world that's more akin to our own pioneer times. With zombies and monsters, of course.

The world is quite intricate and we aren't really given a full idea of the how or why of their situation. We know there was an epic battle between two groups of "angels." We also know that the angels have quashed pretty much all technology and education, infrastructure has fallen - even architecture is only to be gleaned from the remains of the Gone Before, and folks like the Emperor are controlled and eliminated if and when the angels decide they've outgrown their usefulness or become too dangerous.

Quinn, we find out, is reluctant to talk about his position. He doesn't hide it - it's quite obvious that he's a knight, but he doesn't display his badge (which shows which faction of angels he's technically tied to). The reason for this is part of Quinn's overall tale but not the focus of this particular piece.

I don't know at this time how many installments are planned for the Dreaming Cities series. I do know there is a second installment (which I've already read and have tried SO HARD not to let influence this review - because we learn more about the world) due out in July. I have my own suspicions about the angels and the truth behind this word, I'm not sure if I'll turn out to be correct or not but I think that's going to be part of the fun in reading more of this series - seeing the world unfold in the same way a mystery might. And of course learning more about Quinn, his past, and his ultimate goals!

Rating: 4/5

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