Angry Robot, 448 pages
Review by Benjamin Thomas
Graft, Matt Hill’s second novel, opens with fragmented sentences that perfectly capture the mood and setting of a post-apocalypse world splintered and on the edge of chaos. The novel is told through several points of view including: Y, a modified and damaged sex slave; Roy, a mercenary-like character working for the powerful Reverend; and Solomon, a chop-shop owner and his ex, Mel, the proprietor of The Cat Flap, a seedy brothel. When Sol steals a Lexus, he discovers Y in the boot. She is being trafficked and the traffickers want her back, forcing Sol and Roy to turn to Mel for help.
The novel jumps between present and past tenses, with Y’s horrific history unfolding alongside the Sol narrative. Initially this shifting was something of a distraction but as the novel progressed I found the switch refreshing and well-executed.
Hill’s characters are both likable (to differing degrees) and strongly differentiated but their journeys—with the exception of Roy’s—were somewhat stagnant.
Solomon and Mel went through some pretty nasty things as a couple, things that would leave most people hating or wanting to kill the other person. However, as they are pulled back into each other’s world the past is only touched on minimally. Their history lacked resolution and this wasted potential was frustrating.
Y’s story, while being the driving force behind the novel, actually detracted from the book as a whole. Firstly, it is hard to empathize with Y. Despite her horrific backstory, her heavy modifications dehumanized her and puts distance between her suffering and the reader. Of more interest is her effect on Sol and Mel. They are the crux of the novel, but their intertwining stories were pushed to the side to focus on Y’s path to retribution.
Graft is a post-apocalyptic noir thriller about shattered lives in a shattered city. While Hill’s gritty and dark prose knifes its way into the reader’s subconscious, because of the multiple perspectives and the missed opportunities with Sol and Mel’s own stories this novel was ultimately unsatisfying.
This review was first published in Shoreline of Infinity 3.