Razored Land
Charles Allen Gramlich
Tule Frog Press (November 9, 2023)
Reviewed by Andrew Byers

In Charles Allen Gramlich’s riveting Razored Land, the world as we know it has been irrevocably altered by the cataclysmic aftermath of The Flux—an insidious genetic plague that has unleashed chaos and devastation on an unprecedented scale. Against this backdrop of desolation and despair, protagonist Jase Holland embarks on a perilous quest for survival and redemption, navigating a treacherous landscape teeming with monstrous mutations and malevolent forces.

Postapocalyptic thrillers used to be a genre unto themselves in the 1980s and 1990s but I don’t see as many new ones being written today. Gramlich has updated the hoary tropes of the 1980s’ fears of nuclear war with a post-pandemic catastrophe in which a mysterious illness rapidly sweeps across the world and warps and mingles the DNA of different species, most certainly including humans. Fast forward fifteen years and what is left of human civilization isn’t much: a few enclaves of humans who were immune to The Flux and the rest of the scarred landscape is inhabited by newly sentient animal species and half-human/half-animal monstrosities and mutants. If you remember the classic role-playing game Gamma World, I might even describe this book’s setting as Gamma World: The Beginning.

The book itself is composed of two novellas or short novels, the second of which picks up immediately following the action of the first half. Gramlich sets the stage for an electrifying narrative that pulsates with tension and intrigue from the very first page. As one of the few fully human survivors of The Flux, Jase Holland finds himself thrust into a nightmarish reality where the line between humanity and monstrosity has been blurred beyond recognition. With his pregnant fiancée Jenn missing and the world overrun by demonic entities known as the Vile, Jase’s journey becomes a harrowing odyssey of survival against insurmountable odds.

This is not just a novel of military action and gun porn, though Gramlich certainly knows how to write a great fight scene; the story is elevated by the presence of some very intriguing religious elements that hint at a possible supernatural presence that suggests the battle between Good and Evil might be more literal than most Razored Land’s inhabitants understand.

Gramlich’s skillful storytelling transports readers into a dystopian world fraught with peril and uncertainty. From the desolate wastelands of postapocalyptic Louisiana and Arkansas to the hidden sanctuaries of the Immunes and the Vile, the vividly rendered landscapes serve as a haunting backdrop to Jase’s desperate quest to find the woman he once loved.

At the heart of Razored Land lies a compelling exploration of the human condition in the face of overwhelming adversity. Jase Holland emerges as a resilient protagonist whose unwavering determination to find Jenn and their unborn child—who would now be a teenager—serves as a driving force amidst the chaos and carnage. His journey is a testament to the indomitable spirit of survival, as he grapples with the moral complexities of a world plunged into darkness.

The novel’s pacing is relentless, propelling readers forward with a relentless momentum that leaves them breathless with anticipation. From pulse-pounding action sequences to heart-wrenching moments of introspection, Razored Land delivers a rollercoaster ride of emotions that keeps audiences on the edge of their seats until the final, electrifying climax.

Charles Allen Gramlich’s Razored Land is a gripping tale of resilience, redemption, and the indomitable human spirit in the face of unimaginable adversity. With its immersive world-building, compelling characters, and pulse-pounding narrative, this postapocalyptic thriller is sure to captivate readers from start to finish. There are clearly many more stories that could be told in this intriguing postapocalyptic setting and I’d love to see Gramlich return to it. Very much recommended.

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