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(The Bannerless Saga #1)

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  2,293 ratings  ·  474 reviews
A mysterious murder in a dystopian future leads a novice investigator to question what she’s learned about the foundation of her population-controlled society.

Decades after economic and environmental collapse destroys much of civilization in the United States, the Coast Road region isn’t just surviving but thriving by some accounts, building something new on the ruins of
Paperback, 274 pages
Published July 11th 2017 by John Joseph Adams/Mariner Books
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***Dave Hill Yes, it's the first of the series, and the story wraps up decently well.…moreYes, it's the first of the series, and the story wraps up decently well.(less)

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Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
3.75 stars for this rather subdued, introspective SF post-apocalyptic novel, based around a murder mystery. Final review, first posted on Fantasy Literature:

In Bannerless (2017), Carrie Vaughn ― perhaps best known for her KITTY NORVILLE urban fantasy series inhabited by werewolves and vampires ― has created a reflective, deliberately paced post-apocalyptic tale with some detective fiction mixed in. It’s about a hundred years in our world’s future and after an event simply called the Fall, when c
Vaughn has a easy-to-read style, and it didn't take me long to finish Bannerless, despite persistent déjà vu.  I read the second book in 'The Bannerless Saga,' The Wild Ones, last year, and a short story set earlier in this world,** but I at times I was so disconcerted that I ended up checking Goodreads to see if I had read this book before.

As in The Wild Ones, Bannerless involves Investigators called to a seemingly idyllic small town to investigate a dead body. In both cases, the circumstances
Apr 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018-shelf, sci-fi
What this is:

A post-apocalyptic pastoral with mystery elements, with murder, light social corruption, with traces of old tech in a much-reduced future where simple ways are regulated with tight social pressures. Banners are referring to the right to have children... as if overpopulation was the true cause of the earlier devastations.

What this isn't:

A literary post-apocalyptic novel. It's not attempting an outright thematic-based artsy-fartsy post-apoc. Indeed, it focuses on a hopeful future wit
May 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars
Bannerless is a post-apocalyptic murder mystery that works well as a post-apocalypse, somewhat less so as a murder mystery. Carrie Vaughn’s strengths as a writer – her powerful visuals, compelling characters, and intricate worldbuilding – serve this novel well.
Set in a future “after the Fall”, Vaughn imagines this new world as a network of communities that follow strict guidelines to ensure that scant resources aren’t overtaxed. Population control is the most essential feature of this
Bannerless is just my kind of book. Though relatively short, Carrie Vaughn packs a lot of world into these pages - though it helps if you've read the short stories from this universe, as I have.

It's not quite a solarpunk novel, but I would say it has a Solarpunk setting: the end of the world has been and gone in a soft apocalypse, and the survivors have adopted a very careful and eco-friendly way of life to prevent things slipping back to where they were before. Birth control is mandatory (thoug
Bryan Alkire
Oct 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Excellent novel. In fact, it surprised me a bit. Not nearly as predictable or cliched as I’ve come to expect from fiction these days. It’s readable and about halfway through, it grabbed my reading attention and I actually wanted to finish it in a burst. The characters are human and seem well drawn for the society depicted. In short, I recommend this one highly.
Aug 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
It could just be that I was really disappointed with the last few books I’ve read, but I absolutely loved this. Vaughn writes beautifully and a lot of what she says I found very relatable.

When I read the blurb, I was expecting something along the lines of The Handmaid’s Tale, a future dystopian society where women’s reproductive rights are controlled. While the book does have that, it isn’t all that it’s about, and that particular part of the story is so subtly woven into everything else that at
Enid grew up after the epidemics and extreme weather conditions that caused the fall of modern civilization. To her, the idea of billions of people--even millions--is unimaginable. Like most everyone else, she lives in a small agrarian community. Her household is doing well; they have been granted a Banner, meaning they've proven themselves responsible and self-sufficient enough to be allowed to have a child. Enid is called upon to investigate a suspicious death in a nearby community, and therei ...more
Jul 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019-read
A soft spoken procedural that takes place in a post-collapse world. As the main character investigates a suspicious death in another settlement, we get to know the new and lower tech world that has sprung up in place of the one we know.

I liked the quieter way Vaughn writes. I'm starting to see it as the way she generally tells her stories, and I find it appealing. The characters seem real and up close, like people you might know yourself.

The arrangement of the society Enid lives in was an intere
Jun 13, 2018 rated it it was ok
Not a very strong plot nor characters . I spent half the book waiting for the “big “ plot twist to happen but it never did . Expected a lot more from this book after reading its intro but I was left disappointed.
Jul 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A quiet story of a society, 100 years after much of civilization as we know it broke down. There is a mystery that starts the story off: there was a questionable death in another town. Enid, the main character, works as an Investigator. And though this instantly conjures up certain images in my mind, Enid must rely mostly on asking questions, and a calm demeanor, to get her through her investigations. Much was lost many years ago, including forensic techniques.
Enid and her co-investigator, mento
Michelle Morrell
What kind of post-apocalypse novel is this, where smart and good people do smart and good things, and lead a decent life because of it? A hugely refreshing addition to the genre, that's what!

Set a few generations past the collapse of society, we follow the story of Enid, an "Investigator" who is called to the site of a death, which may or may not have been murder. And while this frames the story, it's more a tale of learning from the mistakes of the past and fixing what went wrong. Towns now con
Jessica Woodbury
I get really excited about dystopian/speculative mysteries, probably because THE CITY AND THE CITY is one of my favorite mysteries. But both can be tough genres, hard to do well. Especially if you decide to also shoot for a rather literary approach to the whole endeavor. In the end, BANNERLESS didn't quite succeed for me in any category.

The post-apocalyptic setting is crucial to the book. I tend to prefer books that don't go too high concept but that still create a world that feels vivid and di
May 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book was betrayed by its marketing. This is not dystopian, and there’s no exposing the cracks in the foundation of society, and anyone who reads it hoping for that grim Handmaid’s Tale action is going to be incredibly disappointed. Meanwhile, people like me, who don’t like that stuff but would really enjoy this book, are driven away. I was almost driven away, but I’m glad I gave this book a shot.

What it actually is hopeful post-apocalyptic fiction. Yeah, there was an apocalypse — not one b
May 31, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've read Vaughn's Golden Age novels, to mixed results, but enough to merit interest in her new book. Bannerless is a stand alone (thus far anyway, which doesn't mean much, Vaughn is a prolific series writer) and the mixture of dystopia and a murder mystery sounded very enticing. The execution was somewhat less so. Vaughn created a compelling near future post apocalyptic world, but didn't roam in it too much and the murder mystery was very underwhelming. Not quite sure why, thinking about it. Th ...more
July 2018 - Re-read before reading newly-published sequel The Wild Dead

March 2018 -This was strangely difficult to put down, in a quiet and unobtrusive way. It's a murder mystery at the same time as it's a post-apocalyptic fantasy. No great weapons, no sound-and-fury. Just people who have grown up in a low-tech world trying to get on with their lives. They're very conscious of their limited resources, and that affects many of their laws and customs.

The cutting back-and-forth in Our Heroine's ti
The Captain
Jul 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi
Ahoy there me mateys! I received this sci-fi eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. So here be me honest musings . . .

I had previously read and enjoyed Carrie Vaughn's young adult sci-fi novel, martians abroad. When I saw that she had a dystopian murder mystery sci-fi coming out, I was excited to read it. And it exceeded me expectations.

The story is set "after the fall" in the coastal United States. The coast has flooded. Cities have fallen. The world is slowly rebuilding. The nov
Carolyn F.
I read this short story as part of The End Has Come. There is also a full length novel with the same name. Fantastic story. Dystopian older investigator finds out what's happening in a small village. Love it. 5 stars I am so excited there are more books in this series. I would definitely recommend this book/series. I've read that the book is the same investigator but when she first started working. I've ordered it from the library.

For some reason the full length full sized book has the same name
Jun 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
I'm not sure if this is a fast read, or if my being sick the last two days and reading a lot made it seem like a fast read. In either case, it did make the days go faster. :)

This is marketed as a dytopia, but I actually didn't find the post-apocalyptic society particularly dystopian. In fact, it's pretty stable and egalitarian. I would live in this future, except minus all the previous deaths, of course, but this takes place many decades after the apocalypse as well.

Enid is an investigator, and
Aug 04, 2017 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Worriers
Recommended to Alan by: Previous work
It’s hard to write about the future when the present is on fire.
John Scalzi, July 28, 2017, on his blog Whatever

The present may well be on fire (and writing this review in the midst of a disturbingly intense heat wave only reinforced that impression!), but—at least as far as Carrie Vaughn's SF novel Bannerless is concerned—those flames will eventually fade into a warm and comforting glow, a perspective which fits Bannerless snugly into the post-apocalyptic subgenre of speculative fiction.

Jul 17, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was ok. I was really curious to find out where post-apocalyptic, dystopian fiction by Carrie Vaughn of „Kitty and the Midnight Hour“-fame would take me. And it was ok, nothing more, nothing less. Nice world building, nice character development, nice enough.

I liked the society she invented along that Coast Road and the idea of earning banners. Intriguing, even. I liked Enid‘s backstory and watching her becoming the person she is in the story‘s present. But that was about it. The mystery held l
Jenna (Falling Letters)
Jun 29, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2017, arc
Review originally published 9 July 2017 at Falling Letters. I received a copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. (Decided I 'did not like' this book, so 1 star it is.)

I went into this book hoping for some clever literary fiction exploring questions of population management, bodily autonomy, and maybe some critiquing of environmental and economic policies. I hoped the murder mystery would take a back seat, functioning as frame for those questions. Unfortunately, Ba
Mar 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
*This is the San Francisco Public Library's "On The Same Page" book for March/April

I'm not going to lie, I went into this expecting to dislike it. I'm not a huge sci-fi fan, nor am I a mystery fan but something about the combination of the two and this author's writing style made it work for me. I enjoyed how the story flipped from past-to-present and I enjoyed the main character's sense of herself. I also really enjoyed how the post-apocalyptic society was functioning; it legit sounded like my
Jul 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
In "Bannerless" Vaughn has created a world that barely surviving a superflu epidemic, is also beset by horrendous storms responsible for laying to waste the cities, once inhabited, are now left to crumble. What remains of humanity near the Coast Road are non-traditional family units that have formed communities loosely networked together.

The rule of law seems simple - take only what you need. This of course, is reflected in the way that the farmers plant and harvest food, the way resources are
“You’re trying to save a world that went away a century ago.”

Had to force myself to finish. The premise was so blatantly ridiculous that I had to see if the author somehow saved it. She didn’t. The setting is a post-industrial, post-electrical, post-pharmaceutical, post-religious utopia a century after The Fall, which is the end of civilization as we (or at least Californians) know it. Except they still have solar cars and birth control implants. And a still? They miss plastic wrap? I’d miss ant
Mike Finn
'Bannerless' by Carrie Vaughn, is a gentle, thoughtful, book that uses a murder mystery to tell the story of an Investigator's life and to display the post-apocalyptic community she was born into.

'Bannerless' is a book that's easy to under-estimate. It's not Hollywood Blockbuster material. It's quietly original and combines truth with hope. It sets aside all our post-apocalyptic dystopian tropes, most of which either mourn what was lost or try to revive it or revel in the chaos and cruelty of t
Note to self: Not a description that would usually appeal but just read short story by the same name in Dozois' Year's Best 33 featuring Enid and really liked her. But she was old and about to retire. ...more
Carrie Vaughn’s “Bannerless” is a science fiction book of ideas. Ostensibly a mystery, this short novel is really an exploration of the ramifications of the effect of scarce resources on society. But unlike the summary on the cover of the book, the main character Enid, an “Investigator” does not expose cracks in foundation of the society. What she does is enforce the laws of this community run society. Essentially, the Investigators are judge, jury and enforcer of the Coast Road rules. They trav ...more
Lisa Wolf
2018 update: Re-read via audiobook, and loved it. Excellent narration, and the story is just as good as I'd remembered!

2017 original review: Bannerless is a unique and interesting approach to the dystopian genre. In fact, if you took away the references to "the Fall", you might almost think you were reading a story of agrarian life in the Middle Ages. Let me explain...

In Bannerless, we follow main character Enid, a resident of the town of Haven whose occupation is investigator. Investigators are
Jun 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
My knitting should betray me more often; digging into my to-read list has proven quite fruitful. I read this in about six hours - while waiting for queries to run at at work, on the bus, during dinner, and then curled up on the couch.

It's a dystopian world novel; life as we know it has ended in fire and flood and disease. People saved what they could and rebuilt and things here on what I think was the coast of California have settled. People live peaceful lives; farming, fishing, making bread, h
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Carrie Vaughn is the author more than twenty novels and over a hundred short stories. She's best known for her New York Times bestselling series of novels about a werewolf named Kitty who hosts a talk radio advice show for the supernaturally disadvantaged. In 2018, she won the Philip K. Dick Award for Bannerless, a post-apocalyptic murder mystery. Next up for her: two collections connected to the ...more

Other books in the series

The Bannerless Saga (2 books)
  • The Wild Dead (The Bannerless Saga #2)

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“Did you think of anyone else?” Enid had asked the folk of this household. “Did you think of the next generation that’ll have to work this land and wonder why they’re getting half the yield they should? Or the ones who’ll starve when the land gives up because you”—she had pointed at them, with two stiff fingers—“couldn’t be bothered to take care of it?” 3 likes
“The worst storms were the ones that changed you. The ones you remembered not for how bad they objectively were, but for how much damage they did to your own world. Banners, planted in memory.” 2 likes
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