New York: two years after the Third World War. Humanity is rebuilding its cities brick by brick; the damage done to the people, however, is a lot harder to repair. Dan Hardacre is one of those people. An aspiring stage actor and experienced draft-dodger, Dan struggles to find his place within the Utopic rebuild of New York City. When he’s not caught up with the duties of work, Dan lives a quiet life in mourning for his mother, Dyani, who went missing when he was a teenager. One night, Dan experiences a vivid, terrifying nightmare that puts him right on the front lines of the war for which he dodged the draft; it ends with him facing Death itself in the form of a metallic, faceless humanoid creature that calls itself the Valkyrie. To investigate the reason behind his haunting experience, Dan seeks out a meeting with his estranged father, who reveals the startling truth about Dan’s dream: it wasn’t a dream. With this newfound knowledge and the powers it brings, Dan makes it his mission to return to the scene of his nightmare. However, he soon comes to know that confronting the Valkyrie not only endangers him but the war-withstanding world he leaves behind.
I had the pleasure of reading some fantastic books in 2021, most of them pretty mainstream, and most of those you already know and love them. However one of my greatest honours over the last year or so has been getting author requests and I find myself privileged enough to read a few fantastic books by lesser-known and indie authors. One of these authors being Liam Quane, a truly lovely man that has been someone I’ve had great pleasure communicating with over this last year. Not only is Liam lovely to talk to but he was also kind enough to send me a copy of his stunning book, Road to Juneau is genuinely one of the best quality hardbacks I’ve received in years, beautiful cover, minimalistic design, great paper, and if you’ve read any of my work, you understand that I really like good quality paper. Also this beautiful Hardback is at the low low price of £6 on UK Amazon right now, go bloody buy it.
Firstly, Liam, apologies, this review shouldn’t have taken this long to come out but thank you for bearing with me.
There’s a couple of things that really stuck out for me with Liams book. The first thing I want to mention and the thing that really impressed me from the get go was Liam’s fantastic world building abilities. What Liam managed to build up throughout the pages of RtJ was just incredible, we have this beautifully messy version of America after the end of WW3, and what Liam gave us was this very realistic look at what a post war US would look like, the effect of technology and modernisation that shadows their continued ideology that America is the greatest in the world, but with the continued decline of a nation struggling to fix its issues at a deeper level. Liam tied in a lot of the current political and economic issues that are part of a current day USA that gave it such a real feeling, yet without making this book another morbid look at our own terrible little world. This really helped give RtJ such a solid core for when Liam decided he wanted to go a little wild. The book quickly took a fantastic twist and Liam really flexed those worldbuilding muscles to a new degree, taking this story down a whole tagent I couldnt have guessed at in the slightest. I don’t want to spoil anything so I won’t go into detail, but I really loved the transition from what I thought I was reading to this more fantastical and massive universe.
Worldbuilding skills aside, what really made Road to Juneau stand apart from other SFF books I’ve read was Liam’s style of writing. Road to Juneau doesn’t have that same rigid/structured style that most SFF has, instead I would consider it fairly unique in a weird and wonderful way. It had this twisty, hilarious internal monologue as the basis for the story telling, a first person POV but told from the thoughts and feelings of our main character in a more personal way than I feel I get from most SFF. We get the ramblings of a real person, mirroring what I feel I would be thinking if I faced the same situations that our protagonist finds himself in. I genuinely laughed at points during this read and I would relate that hugely to this internal monologue which made the characters smallest and most normal interactions feel so hilarious. For me having a book that can make me genuinely laugh is such a massive thing, there’s very few books that I would consider funny enough for a real out loud laugh and Liam achieved that on multiple occasions, so thank you. Because of this writing style I really found it hard to guess what would happen during RtJ, plot twists and curveballs coming from all over, having my expectations on the story progression changed is something I really enjoy and wish I got a little more often.
And finally, the protagonist, Dan is a great character, superbly flawed and wonderfully vulnerable. Even with his progression through the story we never have this all-powerful man, this perfect character, a Gary Sue. Liam writes the realistic portrayal of a man struggling with his own anxieties and issues and these are continued throughout the book, Liam showing wonderfully the limitations of the human mind and what we can do. I felt a genuine connection to our main character and loved following his story. Liam does an incredible job of writing something so lofty and majestic, while so human at the same time.
Road to Juneau is a truly unpredictable and unique book that I genuinely enjoyed reading. Liam is a wonderful guy and deserves you buying his lovely book. Thank you for giving me the chance to read it 😊