For a thousand years, humans have had to fight for their survival against the mute, feral “Ants,” created as workers but now gone rogue, scavenging and slaughtering everything in their path.
The beleaguered humans, in the meantime, have evolved two distinct cultures. The disciplined, insular Foresters prioritize safety over personal freedom in their woodland strongholds, while the more individualistic Men embrace an urban lifestyle and are eager to reimplement the technology of past ages. Nominally allies against the Ants, the two groups deeply mistrust each other.
Deer, a despondent Forester soldier, is one of his people’s foremost authorities on Ants. He knows with perfect certainty that Ant-raiders never leave survivors. So how, amid the carnage of a raided Man-village, is one small girl still alive? She says her name is Anne; but who is she, and what is her secret?
Deer takes Anne to the forest to grow up, where years later, a horrifying revelation about her may provide a means for Men and Forester to finally defeat the Ants—but only if they can put aside their differences and work together.
Full of unforgettable characters, masterful dialog, and riveting scenes, Antlands is ultimately a story of hope, healing, and redemption.
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A sound outside the shuttered window: A footstep. An early rising neighbor? The woman sat up, and willed her heart to beat more softly so she could hear. No second step followed the first, and she had lain down again and drawn a breath of relief when the unmistakable metallic whisper of a knife being drawn from a sheath brought her bolt upright again. More footsteps, a grunt, and the jostle of one body against another, and then a sound like heavy raindrops pelting to earth. When a head is struck from a body the heart does not immediately know to stop pumping, and blood spurts from the severed neck in a gory fountain. The sound was that of great gouts of a watchman’s blood falling from the watchtower where the Ants had surprised him onto the ground below.
“Anne,” the woman whispered urgently, shaking the little girl awake. “Up, up!”
The child stumbled sleepily from the pallet. She knew instinctively not to speak.
Dragging the rough mattress aside, the woman felt for the hole dug in the earth beneath it.
Into her daughter’s ear she breathed softly, pushing her down into the cavity, “Here. Lie here: That’s right. Make yourself as small as you can.”
The child still clutched her doll. “Mama…” she whispered—just that one word.
Dawn was breaking at last—too late!—and mother and child could just see by it the gleam of one another’s eyes.
“Stay here, stay covered. No matter what happens, no matter what you hear, don’t move. All right? Not until you’re sure it’s safe.” But how would such a little one know? “I’ll come for you, if I can,” the woman whispered.
A glint other than her mother’s tear-bright eyes caught the little girl’s attention—that of the knife, a big one, in her mother’s hand.
The noises outside were growing louder and more frenzied. Gods! A child’s cry!
“Stay here, stay still; all right, Anne?”
The little girl nodded soberly.
A scrape at the door—
With a mother’s hungry eyes the woman devoured her child’s face one last time. “You must live,” she murmured, touching small Anne’s cheek. “You must try to live.”
The pallet in place again, the woman ran to the door and listened. She was waiting for the Ant outside to move away. She had already decided she must not be taken inside the hut. She must get out somehow, clear of the door, and then run and run as hard as she could, and at last, when she was caught—she knew she would be caught—she must fight. Every step she ran led the Ants further from her child; every Ant she tired by running was an Ant who would search the hut less carefully. And any Ant she killed was an Ant who wouldn’t kill Anne.
In one swift movement, the woman threw aside the bar to the door and burst out.
She made it as far as the clearing surrounding the watchtower, twenty steps or so from where her daughter lay shivering with fear, huddled in a hole in the ground with her doll in her arms. Eyes closed, the child kissed the doll’s face repeatedly, seeing in her mind as she did so her mother’s loved one—but she made not a sound. She was trying to live.
As she lay hugging her rag baby, an Ant whose feet were bare and who wore only the ragged remains of what had once been a roughly-sewn shirt caught her mother by her long hair and flung her to the ground, and her mother, making good on her promise to herself, sprang up again slashing wildly with her knife. She fought her attacker until another Ant, coming behind her, struck off her head with his great iron sword.
As soon as he had done so, both Ants immediately lost all interest in the woman. A dead Man was neither a threat nor plunder. As her body fell, Anne’s mother’s head rolled a little way, to the feet of another Ant. He kicked it casually aside.
The Antlands Series Book 2
Fleeing the last Ant-War, Anna of Evergreen goes with a party of Foresters, Men, and Ants to seek sanctuary on an island. None of them are ever seen again.
Twenty years later, the launch of the Muriel, the first steel-hulled, powered ship built since ancient times, offers Anna’s friends a chance to discover what happened to the lost colonists—if they can persuade River, the Muriel’s designer, to lead an expedition to find her. Exiled from the forest, estranged from his family, and crippled by rage and guilt, River agrees to the plan. Not only was Anna his first love, but the journey, he believes, will provide an exciting new distraction from his pain.
It’s the adventure of River’s life, but when the voyage proves longer and more perilous than anyone anticipated, he finds he’s brought all his old problems along with him on the journey—and in the middle of the ocean, there is no further place for him to run. The struggle to survive reveals River’s limitations, but also his strengths, and with this new self-knowledge, River reassesses his life. The Muriel may provide a whole new life-purpose for him—but is he up to the challenge?
The second book in the Antlands series, Annasland is an adventure novel that explores themes of prejudice and hate, love, loss and redemption in a post-apocalyptic setting.
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Genevieve Morrissey is an avid student of British and American social history, but through one of those strange little quirks of fate she spends most of her days talking with scientists.
In Antlands, she explores a future history of societies coping with the loss of civilization, and their attempts to rebuild it.Together with coeditor Sarah Morrissey, Genevieve has previously published The Complete Raffles: Annotated and Illustrated.Genevieve enjoys reading obscure books, travel, good cooking, and solitude.