After a flu pandemic, a large-scale terrorist attack, and the total collapse of Wall Street, New York City is reduced to a shadow of its former self. As the city struggles to dig itself out of the wreckage, a nameless, obsessive-compulsive veteran with a spotty memory, a love for literature, and a strong if complex moral code (that doesn’t preclude acts of extreme violence) has taken up residence at the main branch of the New York Public Library on 42nd Street.

Dubbed “Dewey Decimal” for his desire to reorganize the library’s stock, our protagonist (who will reappear in the next novel in this series) gets by as bagman and muscle for New York City’s unscrupulous district attorney. Decimal takes no pleasure in this kind of civic dirty work. He’d be perfectly content alone amongst his books. But this is not in the cards, as the DA calls on Dewey for a seemingly straightforward union-busting job.

What unfolds throws Dewey into a bloody tangle of violence, shifting allegiances, and old vendettas, forcing him to face the darkness of his own past and the question of his buried identity.

With its high body count and snarky dialogue, The Dewey Decimal System pays respects to Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, and Jim Thompson. Healthy amounts of black humor and speculative tendencies will appeal to fans of Charlie Huston, Nick Tosches, Duane Swierczynski, Victor Gischler, Robert Ferrigno, and early Jonathan Lethem.

Being my first dystopian book, I was a bit hesitant as to what is what it was all about. I had just learned the meaning of the word several weeks earlier, but I was curious. Let me just say, if this is what dystopia is about, I am hooked.

Nathan has written this book in a way that made it really fun for me to read. It was as if Dewey and I were in a room and he was telling me what was happening as it was happening. Sentences were cut off, thoughts were “at the moment” thoughts and the action was ever present. Taking place in a post war NY, where the main character is the library manager, how could you go wrong!  Not only was the written format interesting, but the story itself was well thought out. Once most people desert a city, only the riffraff is left, and at some point they form their own hierarchy.

It was quite a journey learning about Dewey as he goes from a man that does simple crimes in order to stay alive to becoming a man that has to get his hands dirty as much as it disgusts him, both figuratively and literally (the man is obsessed with his Purell). And during that entire journey, we read not only the horror of trying to stay alive, but the compassion that lays below the art of survival.

I had fun reading this book. it only took me a couple of hours and they were well worth the time. I look forward to the next in the series.

Thank you to Akashic Books

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