Power blackouts, rising crime, water rationing, and the hint of corruption. This is definitely not Portlandia.

“Jamal felt a brief nostalgia for an old Portland…. With its sea of whimsical musicians and artists, bike shops and gluten-free bakeries, living up to the nation’s stereotype of them, at least on the surface, before need and fear had either driven them away or made them serious.”

page 209

With a desperate crisis on hand and the government stalled into inadequacy, the timing is right for a Robin Hood figure to bring hope and the promise of equality.

Or you know, Maid Marion.

Why is this on our bookshelf?

Zach. He’s the shy analyst who fell in love with a spirited barista.

Sometimes the plot is geeky and other times, it’s the characters.

Rating (4 stars)

The gritty world in Sherwood Nation and the circumstances that changed a former barista into a figure of hope is a story that focuses more on the consequences of disaster rather than the disaster itself.

For readers who focus on the drought that brought the characters to desperation, they are missing the story. From hijacking a water truck and distributing the contents to the people to setting up an organized leadership to challenging the existing government, this is a story of radical change in desperate times.

Characters and situations are well-balanced in the story— young idealism is paired with harsh experience, ineffective governing tempered by good intentions.  I loved the character of data-loving Zach, whose analysis of situations offset the daring actions of the audacious Renee, known to the suffering populace as Maid Marion. He doesn’t fit the profile of a rebel, but his geeky skills are essential on any side.

Although I liked the overall book, it almost like the writer lost the courage to write the original ending. The resulting epilogue felt less grittily realistic.

There just aren’t that many science fiction stories set in Portland, Oregon the way there are stories set in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. It’s fun for us locals to read a book and get these little electric shots of recognition as street names and neighborhoods are tossed around.

Want more?  During an interactive author event with Benjamin Parzybok, reviewer Taylor was even deputized as a Sherwood Nation Water Carrier (we have the patch to prove it).