British Fiction Focus

Need a Ride? BITE by K. S. Merbeth

Back in the distant past, when Mad Max: Fury Road was still a big hit in cinemas, Orbit announced—not coincidentally, I think—that it had acquired “a dark debut” complete with “an amazing world” and a “strong female main character” sure to prove perfect for fans of George Miller’s movie.

The book in question was BITE by Kristyn S. Merbeth, “the stark and darkly comedic story of a young girl who joins a crew of bandits in a lawless, post-nuclear world,” and last week, its publisher showed it off properly.

Let’s begin with the blurb:

Kid has no name, no family and no survival skills whatsoever. But that hasn’t stopped her from striking out on her own in the wasteland that the world has become.

When Kid accepts a ride from two strangers, she suddenly becomes the newest member of a bloodthirsty raider crew. Propelled on a messy chase, through shootouts and severed limbs, the group must outrun everyone they’ve wronged. In a world that’s lost its humanity, not everything is as it seems—and this time it isn’t the monsters that crave flesh…

It’s us! Or rather the cannibalistic characters at the heart of this narrative—characters Merbeth drilled a little deeper into when asked in August about the inspiration behind BITE:

In post-apocalyptic stories, there are always groups of gun-toting psychos looting and killing their way through life. They’re usually presented as mindless villains, by-products of the craziness of the world, without backstories or motivations or anything that makes them seem human. And yet, they are human. So I started to wonder—who are these people? How’d they end up this way? What are their lives like behind the scenes? And those questions spawned the idea of a story with typical “bad guys,” a crew of raiders, as the protagonists.

An interesting premise, yes?

And thanks to Lauren Panepinto, BITE has a good look, too:

Bite-by-K-S-Merbeth

A good look, to be sure… but not, at a glance, particularly original. Panepinto has obviously amped up the red and the rust, and made the placement of the text’s title more prominent, but the centrepiece of BITE’s cover does rather resemble the bloodstained Wraith that adorned Gollancz’s out-of-print first editions of NOS4R2 by Joe Hill, doesn’t it?

NOS4R2-by-Joe-Hill

Not that that should take away one whit from what’s within, which sounds—even to my miserable old man mind—like a whole bunch of fun.

Be ready for BITE to take a bloody chunk out of your summer when Orbit publishes it in the UK and elsewhere late next July.

Niall Alexander is an extra-curricular English teacher who reads and writes about all things weird and wonderful for The Speculative ScotsmanStrange Horizons, and Tor.com. He lives with about a bazillion books, his better half and a certain sleekit wee beastie in the central belt of bonnie Scotland.

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