K.S. Merbeth’s WASTELANDERS, which puts her novels BITE and RAID in a single volume, tells the story of Kid, a young girl struggling to survive another day in a post-apocalyptic American wasteland until teaming up with a band of misfit marauders straight out of the Frankenstein child of THE ROAD WARRIOR and the game BORDERLANDS.
The stories are packed with post-apocalyptic tropes and adventures with Kid finding her way in a marauding tribe, where morality has little survival benefit but where she does discover a personal code. Along the way, she toughens up to become a raider herself, as the gang plows through one problem and enemy after another. The fun is in the fact this gang are the bad guys, a mini version of Lord Humongous’s army, and they’re in it to survive and have a good time doing it. Merbeth does a good job making these raiders sympathetic if morally gray, prone to betrayal, and occasionally cannibalistic, largely by showing how worse everybody else is in this insane post-apocalyptic world.
While WASTELANDERS might have benefited with an overarching plot where by unlocking a dormant morality or through naked self-interest they make the world a better place, the stories offer plenty of fun romping around this Mad Max world trashing enemies and surviving by the skin of your teeth, with plenty of action. Overall, WASTELANDERS is just good fun.