The author of this novelette posted a teaser as part of a social media snippet challenge that offered enough to make me curious about the story. I later learned it was an origin story from The Red Dog Conspiracy, a series I’ve been reading. I believe it stands alone for all Gutshot offers cool Easter eggs for series fans.
Gutshot is more of a survival story than a disaster one despite starting in the middle of a huge crisis they later realize is planet-wide. In keeping with the author’s style, it is seen from the point of view (POV) of the little people. Cities are washing away, mountains become islands, and surely somewhere, world leaders are attempting to figure out a path to recovery, but unlike a disaster movie, they are irrelevant.
This is the story of a homeless man named Don who was cast out of San Francisco when officials handed him a bus ticket to Vegas. His history, and how he ended up in this situation, is revealed in the beginning largely as a data dump, but one that works in context. His life is literally flashing before his eyes while he attempts to survive both active lava flow and a tsunami. Things don’t exactly stop, either. More the information is tucked in between the next major obstacles to his survival.
Though it’s a first person POV, Don soon collects a ragged group around him. None of them are high society, or even the most intelligent. They’re kind, quirky, and focused on survival of the community rather than driving for individual benefits. The group faces ecological disaster as well as human perils between the loss of advanced medicine and how the survivors weren’t chosen for their humanity.
It’s the last bit where there’s a seeded event that still seems a little too coincidental, but one I forgive. This coincidence allows Don to come to grips with his past and to accept who he is becoming.
The actual end threw me for a moment because it converts to a framework with Don telling his story to one of the orphans they rescue rather than the reader seeing it through his eyes. At the same time, it gives the story a chance to unfold how things turn out in the longer run, rather than stopping before that point. There are moments of pure sweetness, determination, and hard choices, all of which come together to give a satisfying story.
P.S. I received this title from the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.