Bannerless is a post-apocalyptic novel about people living in an area of the US known as the Coast Road. The novel is set after the Fall, a time when plagues and global warming and unequal economic structures caused the collapse of society as we know it today. Our society has been replaced by settlements made up of households with varying numbers of adults in one house and each settlement is governed by a committee, which are in turn governed by regional committees. In order to have children, households must apply for banners, which are granted to households that prove they can sustain raising a child economically. Any woman in a household without a banner is implanted with a birth control device to prevent pregnancy and it is illegal to have children without a banner. In the midst of this collective society, the novel follows Enid, an investigator who travels around to various settlements to settle disputes and provide consequences when necessary. At the start of the novel, Enid is assigned to investigate a suspicious death in another settlement, where politics and secrets are obviously at play.
First, I did enjoy reading this novel. The mystery aspect was interesting, as I don’t feel that I have read a lot of post-apocalyptic mysteries. Enid is an interesting protagonist, even if I didn’t really care for her very much. She is a strong woman, which I admired, and is very much her own person. However, when it comes a society that seems dystopian, she is very much the enforcer of that society, which is a different viewpoint than the one I’m used to reading in such novels. Other characters were also interesting, though I found them to be a bit one-sided at times.
This novel was billed as a dystopian novel and the synopsis says that Enid’s investigation will make her question everything about her society. However, I didn’t really feel like that happened. Enid was an interesting character, but she didn’t really seem to change over the course of the book as much as get more set in her ways and viewpoints. This was my major quibble with the book. I also felt like the world building could have been a little more in depth and made the world seem a little more dysfunctional. I mean, it wasn’t an ideal society, but it all societies have their problems. I didn’t feel like I got to see enough of the world to judge whether it was truly dystopian.
Overall, I liked this novel, but I didn’t love it. I think a lot of that had to do with expectations I had from the synopsis that I didn’t really feel were delivered on. However, I loved reading a mystery set in a post-apocalyptic world, and I really enjoyed that I finally had a protagonist I could occasionally feel negative things about. I don’t seem to find a lot of books like that, and I think it makes for a very interesting reading experience. Despite some of the drawbacks I had with this book, Goodreads is also identifying it as book #1 in a series, and I’ll likely continue reading it. If you like mysteries and post-apocalyptic novels, I think you would probably like this book, too.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Note: I received this book from Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Is this on your TBR? What other post-apocalyptic novels (particularly mysteries) do you recommend?