CLUTCH's take on post-apocalyptic America walks a fine line between fantasy and realism. Resources are carefully accounted for and many of the characters have tough lives being attacked by predators, going hungry, and losing loved ones, but then the world is filled with great, mutated monsters, rocks falling from the sky, and even more fantastical elements. At times these concepts butted against one another, but, for the most part, Welsh does a great job of blending the two, keeping the book lighthearted and fun sometimes and dark and gritty at others.
Clutch himself is a Conan the Barbarian-like figure, this huge man is able to take on these great, mutated creatures with little more than his trusty axe, Grace, and his tricked out ride, Sweetheart. Unlike the famous Barbarian, Clutch is pretty smart, making full use of his environment and playing things carefully despite his superior strength and indomitable stubbornness. I really liked how Welsh humanized this larger-than-life character through his connection to the objects he depends on by naming them, his love of photography, and his relationships with others. Clutch isn't just an instrument to get to the next a---kicking scene (of which there are a lot of fantastic fights), he's a well-rounded character I grew to care for as the book progressed.
It's not just Clutch who gets this treatment either. While the other characters are not larger than life like him, Welsh takes the time to provide connections, once again focusing on iconic items, key characteristics, and their interactions with others to make them stand out. Some of these characters did feel rather superfluous, but, in some cases, it looks like Welsh is setting up future installments in the series with a few of them.
The one thing that detracted from my enjoyment of the book were the transitions. CLUTCH spends a lot of time jumping around between different characters and different points of the characters' lives, and at the start of this book it kills much of its momentum. Many of these characters do serve important roles and these scenes do create more of an investment in their struggles, but it's not clear at first and these jumps happen a little too often, making the book hard to follow at times. These scenes were made more of an issue reading the .pdf version, because the breaks were often situated between page breaks, so the switch to a different viewpoint wasn't obvious. There were several transitions near the start of the book where I thought I was missing pages!
CLUTCH is currently available in both print and eBook formats from a variety of sources. The Prologue and the first chapter are also available to read for free. Links on where to buy the book and check out the preview can be found over at celwelsh.wordpress.com/stories/clutch.