Awakened by James S. Murray with Darren Wearmouth

Harper Voyager | 2018 (28 June) | 286p | Review copy | Buy the book

Awakened by James S Murray with Darren WearmouthIt should have been a glorious day – the opening of a new subway line for New York City, with none other than the President of the United States in attendance, as well as the Mayor, various Governors and a big bunch of media. But as the VIPs wait for the first of the trains to arrive at the Pavilion station, deep below the Hudson River, they soon learn that the world is about to turn upside down. The train is late to arrive, initially a mere embarrassment, and then it turns up and there is nobody aboard alive. Instead, the windows are smashed and its walls are coated in a flood of blood and gore. But that’s not the end of it. Whatever committed this atrocity enjoyed it. It’s coming back for more.

Awakened is one of those disaster horror novels that I cannot get enough off. The premise of this is absolutely fantastic and I started reading it the day it arrived. Its opening fully lives up to the premise and then we’re thrown headfirst into a gory bloodfest of action, thrills and monsters, all within the claustrophobic confines of the subway system. The surface is so tantalisingly near and yet so horrifyingly far and everybody, whether they’re a President, a train driver or a police officer, is going to have to fight for their lives. And, if they’re a decent human being, for the lives of others around them. Of course, not everybody is a decent human being.

The action doesn’t let up from start to finish. The story pushes along with several strands of plot as we follow more than one group of people through these tunnels of death. Although this does make the novel rather disjointed and jumpy at times, this is thrilling stuff and the book drives on with the power and pace of one of the subway’s devastated trains.

Awakened is one of those horror disaster novels when you have to hold on for dear life. Unfortunately, not all of the characters can do the same and so you never quite know who is going to survive a chapter. The Presidential element adds something extra and I enjoyed that. He and the Mayor are perhaps the two better developed characters of the novel (there are some wooden baddies on display). I’m glad to say that there are plenty of women here who also fight like demons to survive.

The monsters are revolting as you’d expect, although the most horrible thing about them isn’t their appearance but the way that they kill. This is a gory book. It runs with blood and is lumpy with severed limbs. But it never disturbs – this is horror fantasy and anything can happen. The claustrophobic setting is particularly successful, as is the fact that the action takes place over such a short period of time. The atmosphere and pace build from the start.

Awakened ends well but I’m delighted to read that there will be more. I’ll be more than ready to be scared again because I suspect that people are going to be slow to learn their lesson.


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