If you don’t like being surprised by books, then Kevin A. Muñoz’s debut novel The Post is not the book for you. If, however, you are a fan of adrenaline-packed, post-apocalyptic mystery and adventure, then it might just be right up your alley.
The Post opens in The Little Five, a small, wall-bound community near the ruins of Atlanta, Georgia, ten years after a pandemic wiped out most of the world’s population. The Little Five’s chief of police is Sam Edison, who seeks to create what little order he can in a world where zombie-like creatures called Hollow Heads threaten humanity’s very existence. After two refugees are murdered shortly after seeking asylum in The Little Five, Edison uncovers a human trafficking ring that extends throughout Georgia, one that some residents of The Little Five have secretly been complicit with. When Sam attempts to imprison those sympathizers, the ring takes the mayor’s stepdaughter hostage in retaliation, reminding everyone that there are far more sinister things in the world than mere Hollow Heads.
The Post is a celebration of the sci-fi and action genres, but it is not captive to them. Sam is the epitome of the gruff action hero with a tragic past, but the chief is also deeply sentimental and often naïve, a fact that humanizes parts of the novel that could easily feel callous if presented in the usual cold, analytical tone of many action novels. Sam’s perspective forces readers to reckon with the humanity of those—whether human or Hollow Head—who end up at the other end of the police chief’s gun. And from that perspective we’re forced to consider an important question: Who is less human, the Hollow Head or the man in charge of a trafficking ring? Similarly, while the novel builds a spectacular mystery (How deep does the conspiracy go, and who, exactly, is behind it all?), it doesn’t do so at the expense of the pacing of the novel itself. The result is a perfect blend of action and mystery, part revenge tale and part chase.
It’s worth nothing that many post-apocalyptic novels are described as gritty and visceral, but that Muñoz’s work takes that description to a new level. It deals with some heavy content, including abuse, child death and sex trafficking. The Post doesn’t pull punches when it comes to the fight scenes typical of its genre, either. Sam’s encounters with the Hollow Heads and with fellow humans are visceral to the point of being uncomfortable. And his internal monologue provides a window into the mind of a person who has had to suffer abuse in order to make it as far as the end of the world. However, for readers who choose to take the time to really dig in, The Post is a gem that rewards them for their time. Just when you think you’ve gotten everything figured out, Muñoz hands out a piece of information that you could have never anticipated, but that you realize in retrospect was awaiting you the entire time. The only thing you’ll complain about at the end is that it wasn’t longer.