Column: On the Marches of Dreamland: Review: Well Fed (Mountain Man Book 4)

By Randy Stafford

Blackmore, Keith C. Well Fed (Mountain Man Book 4). Amazon Digital Services Inc.: 2014. Kindle USD $4.99. Paperback USD $14.39, 545 pages. ASIN: B00PY8IA78.

It’s been about four years since the zombie plague struck Newfoundland and, presumably, the rest of the world. Now, a new day is dawning.

Oh, there still are wild zombies around – pathetic crawlers because they’ve worn their legs down to stumps. But mostly, zombies have become weaponized, tools for sadistic pleasure. And the tool wielder is, of course, that old apex predator returning to his post: humanity.

But, as the Romans used to say, “Man is wolf to man.” There were elements of this in the early Mountain Man novels, particularly the preceding novel Hellifax with its Norsemen gang and serial killer Tenner. But this novel takes it to a new level. This novel is about the two most basic political questions: Who obeys whom and why?

The story opens with the Mountain Man, Augustus Berry, savoring the farm life he shares with several adults and children. Gone are the days when Gus, armored in his Kevlar fireman’s gear, clubbed down zombie hordes with his baseball bat. Oh, there’s stomping on the occasional zombie, but his service as community watchman is fairly undemanding and relaxing.

But then he’s sent to see what happened to some fellow settlers who went to loot a very large mansion. Gus doesn’t particularly like them and one even plans on killing him. (Blackmore strategically shifts viewpoints at different points in the novel to introduce suspense, but mostly, we stay with Gus.) But Gus goes. The first hundred pages are Gus’ last zombie-killing hurrah.

Returning to the farm, Gus finds his fellow settlers killed or kidnapped, and he sets off on a rescue mission that will take up the rest of the novel. On the way, he’ll encounter sadistic “toll collectors” on the cluttered highways of Canada, psychopathic cannibals and something new … the Shovel gang.

They’re brutal. But their leader Shovel’s not a psycho or sadist. He’s practicing a very ruthless type of statecraft. After attacking a group of settlers, killing some – and before making others fight with each other to the death – he makes an announcement to his potential recruits: “Come with us as we search the country for like-minded souls. I’m not offering a return to the old ways, the old systems. I’m offering citizenship in a new world.”

Shovel’s actions have a logic to them that make him somewhat sympathetic. He’s trying to revive civilization and needs to control its most valuable resource: people.

You don’t have to have read the previous books in the series to understand this one, but it will help in appreciating it.

Blackmore anchors his book to Gus, his scarred, vulgar hero who sometimes has conversations with Captain Morgan the rum mascot. While it’s nice to have Gus back – he was missing from the last book in the series – Blackmore isn’t just repeating himself.

He expands the settings of his book beyond the narrow range of the first three and gives us an explanation for the creation of zombies. He also gives us two Canadian Special Forces operators, the husband and wife Wallace and Collie.

Collie isn’t exactly one of those warrior … babes. She’s missing too much of her nose and has too many scars for that. She’s definitely a warrior woman, though, unbelievably so at one point. Husband Wallace has some health problems, namely that he looks a lot like a zombie.

But, because old Gus is out of his depth for a lot of his book, he needs their help.

There is also a previously unmentioned element of Gus’ past, which comes at an oh-so-convenient moment. But Blackmore makes it work. In the end, in the penultimate chapter, he even managed to choke this hard-hearted reviewer up. Just a bit.

Blackmore has said this is definitely the last Mountain Man book. He’s ended the series on a high note. Like knocking back a slug of another of Gus’ old friends, Mr. Jack Daniels, this will make you gasp and then give you a warm feeling inside.