By: William Todd Rose
150 years after the fall of civilization:
Enter a post-apocalyptic word where the cities of man are crumbling necropolises left to the ravages of time and nature, burgeoning settlements cling to life, and the remnants of humanity exist as two disparate cultures locked in a waltz of survival and death. Into this world comes Tanner Kline, a man charged with protecting his community from Spewers, a primitive tribe whose bloodline carries the vestiges of the virus which pushed mankind to the brink of extinction. On what should have been a routine patrol, his path crosses with Lila, a proud huntress whose heart simmers with resentment for the men who killed her husband. Men like Tanner Kline. Together, they spiral onto a collision with an uncertain future where their individual destinies and the fates of their respective cultures hang in the balance.
After finishing this amazing work of art from William Todd Rose, I'm still reeling from the maddening conclusion.
A work of speculative-fiction, Apocalyptic Organ Grinder has less to do with the apocalypse than it does with the human species and our monstrous ability to classify and subdivide groups of people until we can create an acceptable standard. If written in the 1950s or '60s, this book would have been hailed as a masterpiece: pitting two different variations of the human species—one infected with a world-ending, flesh scarring virus, and the other the pure-skinned standard—this book makes you choose a side, and it's a choice you don't want to make.
Who is right, and who is wrong? Who are the true "savages" in this story. We all know the answer, of course, but Rose explores the depths of human depravity and societal fractures, a timeless weakness of the human race.
We are introduced to Tanner Kline, a Sweeper whose job it is to find and eliminate the Spewers, who have been infected with the Gabriel Virus. Tanner believes he is purifying his world from the taint of these "filthy people" for the sake of his daughter's future, but his ability to dehumanize the Spewers is paralleled by the introduction of Lila, a Spewer whose family has been destroyed by Sweepers.
What's the difference between the two races? What separates them? Not very much. Rose includes narrative interludes that explain the history behind the disease and the division of these two peoples, though we realize that the "apocalypse" was made possible by human frailty and savagery rather than the virus's ability to depopulate the species.
The symbolic "organ grinder" doesn't seem to make an impact on the novel until more than three-quarters into the story, and there aren't very many other characters to help illustrate the complex themes. However, the conflict between the two groups is illustrated aptly through the eyes of Tanner and Lila—additional characters might muddy the plot.
The tension between the two perspectives is relentless, and there are two heart-pounding moments in this work, including the shocking conclusion, that will leave you breathless with conflicting emotions. While a chase scene does get bogged down by a little too much detail, the majority of the story is fast-paced and riveting.
Apocalyptic Organ Grinder is an excellent allegory for any generation. While the book is certainly a genre work, it's easy to ignore any preconceived notions of fiction categories—a lesson that will help us better understand this book's most important themes. You could easily write a dissertation on the varying concepts that Rose explores.
Amazon Stars: 5/5