“The Arrivals” by Melissa Marr (William Morrow, 276 pages in trade paperback, in stores).
People who live there call it The Wasteland. The parched environment, with its fire-breathing lizards and blood-sucking bloedzuigers, underneath two moons, is not a friendly place for the humans from Earth who find themselves deposited there without warning.
Melissa Marr’s novel, “The Arrivals,” while touted by the publisher as a blend of “The Matrix” and “The Wizard of Oz,” actually carries more resemblance to the first book in Stephen King’s epic Dark Tower saga, “The Gunslinger,” as she drops her characters into this bizarre western world where the familiar mingles with a dark magic.
Such a transplant is Chloe Mattison, a young woman from 2013 Washington, D.C. The last thing she remembers is breaking her sobriety after catching her fiance in bed with another woman, and now she wakes up in the desert.
The new arrival is greeted by Jack Reed and his sister, Kitty, who came to The Wastelands 26 years ago from 1870 San Francisco — time doesn’t seem to work the same here as it does back home. Jack and Kitty have not aged, but they have died, numerous times, since their arrival.
Sometimes death is permanent. Sometimes the dead person revives within six days.
Jack and Kitty are leaders of a band of independent agents who go on missions for the governor. Their first such mission, which opens the novel, is a meeting gone bad with a delegation of chanting monks — whose chants are summoning a demon.
Opposing the Reeds and their team is Ajani, a mysterious figure who has decided he wants to control all of The Wastelands: the mines, the farmlands, the people, everything. Ajani and Jack have a “gentlemen’s agreement” allowing each to have a turn attempting to convince each new arrival to throw in with his side.