In this post apocalyptic (aren’t they all) world there is a huge area known as the Barrenland. It’s populated by, for want of a better term, things. The world has small villages with one near the Barrenland border. An army led by Duke Paul is on its way to cross the border and find out exactly what and possibly who lives there..
This has the fun aspect of an American International 50’s SF movie. Brunner’s “things” descriptions are over the top and it is fun to see how far out he gets. One of his main characters is a total loser. Will he stay that way?
Jervis Yanderman is a commander who works for his friend Duke Paul of Esberg. Granny Jassy has visions and hands out charms to the soldiers against Yanderman’s wishes. A scout named Ampier returns all torn up with a green fungus taking him over. He had a battle with a thing from the Barrenland. His clothes are burned along with everything he touched. It was too late for him and he dies. Now Duke Paul is determined to lead a two thousand man army into the Barrenland.
The village of Lagwich is near the border. Outside the village is Conrad. He makes soap and is considered a pariah to the citizens even though they supply him with ashes to make his product which they need.
Duke Paul’s army arrives outside the village and everyone is happy. Conrad manages to destroy a thing that ran into his area. He goes to the village thinking that he’ll be a hero when the townspeople see what he did. No such luck. While he was gone a soldier dragged the body away. There’s suspicion that there are men in the Barrenland. One man came into the village totally out of it. They referred to him as a devil and he ended up mounted and on display.
Things get way out of hand when it’s discovered Duke Paul has the green plague. He dies and it’s up to Yanderman to lead the army into the Barrenland. A disgusted Conrad goes to the army camp wanting to join in their trek to the Barrenland. Then…all hell breaks loose.
Soldiers are running out of the camp. Fires are started. Shots are being fired. The soldiers refuse to follow Yanderman into the Barrenland. They’d rather loot Lagwich. Conrad comes across Yanderman who hypnotizes Conrad who has more visions than Granny Jassy. The two decide to tackle the Barrenland on their own.
This is what they used to call in the old,old days an entertainment. It is a fun way to spend an evening or two.