When I heard Forbes West was going to write for Wonderment’s Apocalypse Weird series I was very interested in what he could come up with in this post-apocalyptic playground for indie authors. One of the most impressive aspects of this project so far has been not only the quality, but the diversity of the authors and West certainly fits the bill. His debut Nighthawks at the Mission was one of the most interesting and inventive pieces of sci-fi I’ve read in recent years.
Taking a distinctly noir-ish tone from the outset, Medium Talent takes place some years after huge storms have ravaged the planet and the undead have risen to partake in the survivors. Set in the Florida Keys (can’t get more noir than the Keys!) Wendy Wicker does whatever it takes to stay ahead of the draconian militia, political terrorists and dangerous criminals as she uses her boat Medium Talent to make a quick buck.
When a run takes a turn for the worst, Wicker finds herself in the most unlikely of places and must decide whether to return to the world she knows or leave it all behind and start afresh, although dark forces are already in place that have other plans for Wendy.
An anti-hero of sorts, Wicker is a wonderfully complex character, a borderline sociopath haunted by her past and terrified of her future, desensitized by the death and destruction she has witnessed yet still struggling to hang on to friends and family in an attempt to create some balance in her life and hold on to her humanity.
Medium Talent is also a love letter to Key West and Hemingway with some definite nods to To Have And Have Not and even in its post-apocalyptic setting West does a wonderful job of portraying the area almost as it’s own character, even in different time periods as part of the story moves to the 1930’s.
West does his best to make this pocket of Apocalypse Weird his own, introducing new aspects to the existing world and bringing his own sense of chaos, fear and madness to proceedings while avoiding overused tropes and keeping the narrative snappy and effective, keeping the reader simultaneously entertained and unnerved. A worthy addition to what has so far been a showcase for some of the best indie talent out there.