Bite by K.S. Merbeth (book review)

July 28, 2016 | By | Reply More

Although you only build up a picture of what K.S. Merbeth’s reality is from reading this novel, ‘Bite’, you can’t mistake its somewhat ‘Mad Max’ post-apocalypse world for what it really is. Lots of crazy people, life is cheap, authority by who has the biggest or most guns and who you are scared of. There is a shortage of everything and survival is literally living hand to mouth.


When a sixteen year-old girl is picked up on the road by Wolf and Dolly, her chances of survival somewhat go up. That’s not their real names and even they or rather Wolf calls her ‘Kid’ than wanting to know what she’s really called. Despite their depiction as traders, after the first town skirmish where they also team up with their advance party of Tank and Pretty Boy, Kid is accepted into their gang and realises that these are also the ‘sharks’ that townsfolk fear. Mind you, they are no better than them neither. Everyone is out for themselves. However, there is a need for an element of trust for visitors because trading is the only way to get fresh supplies, although you do have to wonder how long before everything runs out. To top that, anything dead is considered meat, including human. If you don’t care for cannibalism, at least while its recognisable before being the meat is cut up, there seems to be a surplus of canned beans to eat. It’s a kill or be killed world and no one is trusted. Even in your own team…mostly. Survival is everything although a rite of passage is permitted.

How much to say about this story without turning spoiler is difficult because this particular group jumps from crisis to crisis in a page-turning book. Merbeth’s first novel gets off to a roaring start and although these sharks are not particularly likable, their opposition is often far worse which sort of balances things out. She also writes strong characters and although there are certain stereotypes amongst them, they don’t tend to be instantly identifiable as them.

I should point out that ‘Bite’ isn’t just a series of random adventures because everything does lead to something which they have to overcome at the end. The main preoccupation of Wolf is that no one should have too much power in the wastelands because it goes to their heads and is often determined to see that they lose theirs.

The story is also a first person narrative through Kid’s (notice ‘Kid’ not ‘the Kid’, she doesn’t like being called that) eyes so she’s obviously the insight to the reader. If I have to be critical of anything and it’s a common problem with first person stories is not taking into account the literary skills of the narrator. Kid is supposed to be illiterate, which we are reminded of from time to time, yet she can use words like ‘stoic’ which she certainly wouldn’t have come across in conversation with other illiterates. Granted there are always concessions to the readers so a story can be understood but, equally, the reader should be thought of as smart enough to get a simpler vocabulary.

This isn’t a world you would want to live in but I suspect a film company would delight in making this into a rather scary film.

GF Willmetts

July 2016

(pub: Orbit/Hachette Book Group. 396 page small enlarged paperback. Price: $ 9.99 (US), $11.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-316-30870-0)

check out website: http://www.orbitbooks.net/

Category: Books, Scifi

About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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