Vaughn has a easy-to-read style, and it didn’t take me long to finish Bannerless, despite persistent déjà vu. I read the second book in ‘The Bannerless Saga,’ The Wild Ones, last year, and a short story set earlier in this world, but I at times I was so disconcerted that I ended up checking Goodreads to see if I had read this book before.
As in The Wild Ones, Bannerless involves Investigators called to a seemingly idyllic small town to investigate a dead body. In both cases, the circumstances are vague enough that it could potentially be ruled an accidental death, but is just suspicious enough to deserve investigation. In Bannerless, Enid is with her professional mentor, Thomas, and in the second book, she leads her own mentee. Narrative in both is interspersed with Enid’s own memories.
The world-building is very intriguing. With a combination of decimation of population and a return to agricultural-based, mostly-subsistence lifestyle, at times the story is literally pastoral. Bannerless sets it up almost believably, with the explanation that the world slid into chaos gradually, with one disaster after another, until rebuilding became financially impossible.
The mood is thoughtful, and introspective. Because the narrative flips back and forth between Enid’s adolescence and the investigation, it feels as if the stories progress well, even as there is rather incremental and non-dramatic action. The earlier narrative is a coming-of-age story that gives an intriguing opportunity to explore the world. The set-up of the investigation is interesting, because Investigators are not precisely police and have to also rely on political presence over force. I wouldn’t go into it looking for an edgy or fast-paced crime; more a slice-of-life challenge.
But the rest of it feels similar.Part of the first chapter was included in an apocalypse anthology some time ago, edited by John Joseph Adams. There was also a short story prequel to this world as well, so part of the sense of familiarity was justified. At any rate, ‘familiar’ in this case did not mean ‘bad.’ Overall, I recommend it, particularly if you enjoyed Station Eleven, or want to take a look at post-fall in a more hopeful, potentially real fashion (no zombies, asteroids or supernatural events).