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A post-apocalyptic St. Louis, as imagined in new novel

Author Benjamin Percy
Jennifer Percy

A flu epidemic and nuclear war have wiped out most of America and only a small number of humans survive in an outpost known as the Sanctuary, formerly the city of St. Louis.

This is the premise of Benjamin Percy’s new novel, “The Dead Lands,” which takes place in St. Louis and mirrors the Corps of Discovery in 1804. In the novel, two characters named Lewis Meriwether and Mina Clark lead a small group west to face the dangers of mutant creatures and a brutal army in hopes of discovering a land where civilization thrives.

“First came the super flu which was borne out of Ames, Iowa. The USDA labs are located there, so it’s not too much a stretch of the imagination to believe that it’s ground zero for the apocalypse. And, St. Louis has fortified itself, so it has become what it believes to be the last outpost of humanity,” Percy told “St. Louis on the Air” host Don Marsh on Wednesday.

Percy went on to read a section of his book:

“The remains of downtown St. Louis have been built over and repurposed to the degree that someone who stepped across the centuries would not recognize one for the other. Everything is sunken and leaning and crumbling and patched together in a way that appears accidental, the city covered with a dusty skin and seeming in this way and in other ways, as a dying thing.”

Further, in Percy’s fantastical world, the Gateway Arch appears out of the Earth like a set of ragged mandibles, old Rams logos are observed as are Budweiser products.

Of the novel, author Stephen King said, “You will not come across a finer work of sustained imagination this year.”

Percy is appearing at an event Wednesday night along with St. Louis author Curtis Sittenfeld, whom he called, “St. Louis’ literary warlord.”

Related Event

Left Bank Books Presents Author Benjamin Percy

  • Wednesday, April 15, 2015
  • 7:00 p.m.
  • Introduction by St. Louis author Curtis Sittenfeld
  • The Improv Shop, 510 N. Euclid, Saint Louis, MO 63108

St. Louis on the Air discusses issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh. Follow us on Twitter: @STLonAir.

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Alex is the executive producer of "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.