Question: What do a nameless narrator, mutating bones, boxing, and a post-apocalyptic Las Vegas have in common?
Answer: Brian Hodge's Without Purpose, Without Pity.
A strongly written and interesting novella that nevertheless never really gets out of third gear, Without Purpose, Without Pity is a peculiar beast that feels more like a set-up to something much larger and more substantial than what is presented here. It follows an unnamed ex-boxing commentator who bears witness to a boxer-friend of his who undergoes a frightening metamorphosis upon his return from a week missing in the desert outside Las Vegas - somewhere between the city's border and the howling dust vortex which surrounds the town. Said vortex completely cuts the town off from the rest of the world, and those within don't even know if there is anyone beyond its borders as those who try to push through meet their demise within sight of onlookers.
A gladiatorial-like fight, power plays, spiritual rumblings, and the usual desperate attempts for power in a post-apocalyptic landscape all feature within Hodge's tale, but for mine, the disparate parts never really come together in a wholly satisfying manner. What works for this novella, however, is some incredibly strong writing. Hodge weaves sentences that are mesmerising in tone and beat, and his word choice is second to none. (If only I could write half as well as this man ...)
So while I wasn't as enamoured with the plot of this one as I was with his novella, Whom the Gods Would Destroy, the writing carried me through and was enough to keep me swiping pages regularly.
Therefore recommended to those looking for something more literary or off-beat than the usual post-apocalyptic fare.
3 Thunderous Right Hooks for Without Purpose, Without Pity.