Book Review – The Vagrant by Peter Newman

My review of The Vagrant by Peter Newman 8/10

The Vagrant is his name. He has no other. Years have passed since humanity’s destruction emerged from the Breach. Friendless and alone he walks across a desolate, war-torn landscape. As each day passes the world tumbles further into depravity, bent and twisted by the new order, corrupted by the Usurper, the enemy, and his infernal horde. His purpose is to reach the Shining City, last bastion of the human race, and deliver the only weapon that may make a difference in the ongoing war. What little hope remains is dying. Abandoned by its leader, The Seven, and its heroes, The Seraph Knights, the last defences of a once great civilisation are crumbling into dust. But the Shining City is far away and the world is a very dangerous place.

To my good fortune, I was lucky enough to be given an ARC of The Vagrant by the good people of Pulp Fiction Books, Brisbane (thanks to Ron, Iain and Beau). I had first seen the book when I was checking out the 2015 releases, placing it on my to-read list for the year. Thankfully I did not have to wait too long.

The story follows the travels and experiences of a character called the Vagrant, who is unable or unwilling to speak, which does set an interesting viewpoint for the reader. This is the first time I have read a novel in which the hero is mute and while this was mostly enjoyable, I would have liked a little more expression and movement while he was interacting with his world

*** Spoiler ***

This inability to speak is a relatively new event to the Vagrant, and I believe the character would have benefited from more unspoken (yes a pun!) frustration, as he tries to express himself fully to others. There were moments of irritation and aggravation but they were never fully expanded out and so didn’t last long enough for my tastes.

*** Spoiler End ***

The Vagrant has a well-established sense of purpose, moral code and an unerring conviction which singles him out as a sad flickering light in a sea of hopelessness and darkness that has tainted the Southern lands and its people. Hope and a belief in protecting his ward are the major factors that shape his choices, both good as well as bad, and these are what endear the character to the reader.

One of my favourite flights of fancy in the Vagrant was the diversity of the Demon forms after their emergence, corruption and mutation of the human hosts both alive and dead. Newman has written the Demons with colour and flare, conjuring images of the twisted monstrosities and creatures from your worst – and best – dreams. The description of the first Demons we are introduced to is strong, vivid and still remains imbedded in my imagination. A man shaped creature topped with the head twisted into the form of a giant clam. A fly buzzes along a dirty corridor, in a broken palace. The Clam face splits and the fly lands in its open maw, tasting its blood the Clam man has received its hidden message.

The one weakness I did have was the Demons did not come across as frightening or fearsome as they had more of a freakish and deformed feel but maybe that was the point.

*** Spoiler ***

Demons do not have a true form but are required to highjack bodies to survive.

*** Spoiler End ***

This body-jacking was an element of the story that I found very interesting and a step-away from the traditional depictions of demons. In one aspect this idea is straightforward in its use but I also think this may lead to something more.

I get a feeling that the Demons are running from something because it doesn’t feel like they are running towards anything. They feel more like refugees than invading army but I could be completely off here. The flow on effect of this thought was at times (to me anyway) there was a humanisation of the Demons, their desire for individuality and autonomy was very prevalent and in a somewhat abstract thought – could this then be seen as a universal desire or just something leached from the human host?

There is a truism in the reading of the Vagrant, that people are the same regardless of whether they are Demon tainted or not, that they will survive by any means and resist even when the idea of hope is just that – a dream long forgotten, secreted away within their heart. Why are these concepts true? Because we are human and Newman has captured this attitude and portrayed it well. The struggle to survive and the will of humankind to keep going anyway it can is a strong theme in the story.

One negative I did have was that I found the story to be a little swift in its timing and progression. The Vagrant has a desire to help people, which correspondingly spark a hidden flame for people to help him, but as he moves forward with friends, villains and Demons these experiences come across as rushed. I believe I understand Newman’s premise to keep moving forward in the story but I wish there could have been time to savour the moment, to feel the pains and losses.

*** Spoiler ***

One specific instance of this was the befriending of Harm, a minor tainted human who decides to follow and speak for the Vagrant. The explanation given for Harm’s (who at best can be called a natural survivor) faith in the Vagrant reads without depth and conviction, coming across as unbelievable. However, by placing myself in the mind frame of a person trying to survive in a world polluted and perverted, and then finding an individual who still holds true to a certain code and honour, I can see the edges of this devotion for the character.

*** Spoiler End ***

The Vagrant not just provides a progressive march forward, we are also provided a view of the past as every few chapters we are given a window into the events leading up to the Demon invasion, its results and the personal history of the Vagrant. Normally, I would say flashbacks can detract from the story but Newman has provided them sparingly and with content which is relevant. I would estimate a fifth of the book concerns these flashbacks, giving a just the right amount of information to keep us interested but could easily contain more without feeling too overloaded.

For even more reviews, author interviews and biographies, check out the site Fantasy Book Review.


2 thoughts on “Book Review – The Vagrant by Peter Newman

  1. It is fascinating to me that we have such a profusion of post-apocalyptic novels on the market. Do you think it is a foreshadowing of future events or just authors playing with an interesting theme? The advent of the nuclear age caused the last surge. Is there a fear driving the latest wave?

    Your review is well written and makes me want to read the novel! Well done.


    • My own thoughts run along the lines that we will always fear a time when the world will be ravaged either by war, pestilence or alien invasion 😛 and only the few lucky or unlucky based on your few point survive. These type of books, fiction and none fiction tap into this fear and anxiety because we know deep down we have the potential to make this a reality and we really only want to explore and experience this from the safety of are sofas


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