Category Archives: Apocalyptic

Wish You Weren’t Here by Gabby Hutchinson Crouch

Farrago | 2021 (14 October) | 304p | Review copy | Buy the book

Wish You Weren't Here by Gabby Hutchinson CrouchGhost hunters have never been so busy. The cases are building up for the Rook family but this job should be a quickie. They’ve headed for Coldbay Island, a small island off the coast of Lincolnshire, where they have been hired by the local vicar Grace Barry to rid her church of an angry spirit that likes nothing more than to smash the place up. But Brenda and her son Darryl see such things as they cross the bridge onto the island – ghosts are everywhere they look, sad and lost spirits, far too many for Brenda’s sister Charity to pop out of this realm. The island appears to be deserted of the living and it soon becomes clear that this will be no quick case. Indeed, the Rooks are soon rather concerned that they’re all that stands between the world and the apocalypse.

When I picked up Wish You Weren’t Here, the first in a new series, I had little idea what to expect. I hadn’t read a novel by Gabby Hutchinson Crouch before and I have a bit of a hit and miss relationship with novels of the supernatural. But what a treat I had in store for me. This is an absolute belter of a book! It’s about 300 pages, so all too short and leaves me wanting book 2, but every page counts.

I loved everything about this book. The author introduces us to the Rook family with great skill – Brenda and her husband Richard, their grown children Darryl and Charity, and Darryl’s husband Janusz who looks after the books. Each of these wonderful people feels so real. They have flaws – some a bit more significant (and downright absolutely terrifying) than others. They also have skills. Oddly, perhaps Janusz, the only ‘normal’ one among them, is the most extraordinary because he holds them all together, protecting and loving them, and he is the subject of what I found to be the most terrifying scene of the book.

The setting on this creepy, cold island is fantastic. And that made me accept everything that happens. It’s both realistic and fantastical, thanks to its separation from the mainland of northeast England via that frightening bridge. It’s no wonder the ghosts are depressed.

The writing is fabulous. It’s dark but it is also very funny (the dialogue had me cracking up time after time!). Tragedy lies at the heart of much of its humour. I also found it genuinely frightening and disturbing, despite the Ghostbusters feel of some of it. There is also a sadness surrounding the ghosts as we’re given glimpses of their living past. Wish You Weren’t Here might be short but it contains such a lot.

Wish You Weren’t Here is funny, dark and full of great characters and cameos, whether living, dead or undead. The setting on a creepy island off Lincolnshire seems entirely fitting for a potential apocalypse. This is fabulous writing and it’s quite incredible how much depth, how many full relationships, the author packs into such a short novel. I cannot wait for book 2. This is quite easily one of the best books I’ve had the pleasure of reading this year and is perfect for a spooky October read!

The Noise by James Patterson and J.D. Barker

Century | 2021 (5 August) | 421p | Review copy | Buy the book

Terror has come to Mount Hood in Oregon and Tennant Riggin and her much younger sister Sophie are the only survivors from a small community of people living off the grid. Everyone has either vanished or their bodies have been smashed to pieces. The government gathers together a group of scientists, experts in, among other things, the environment, in medicine, in space. They are sealed off from the rest of the world as they study this terrible phenomenon – death is brought by a catastrophic noise and it seems there is a pattern to it. Psychologist Martha Chan believes the answers can be found with Tennant and Sophie but, with the noise spreading, will there be time to save humanity?

I love a good thriller and The Noise was irresistible to me. It’s got the lot – science fiction, horror, mystery and speculation, apocalyptic threat, action, goodies, baddies, all set within the spectacular and isolated mountains and forests of Oregon. The authors are also a draw, bringing together thrills and horror, and they do it very well.

The Noise is a fast read. It races along, with short chapters which move between the protagonists – the sisters, the scientists, the military, the President and his advisors. It’s all thoroughly entertaining but what gives this novel an edge is the nature of its mystery. I was fascinated by the noise and really wanted to know what it’s all about. Is it manmade, is it alien, is it supernatural? What is it?

Martha Chan is a sympathetic character but, surprisingly, I was most drawn to Lt Col Fraser’s story. He is in many ways the perfect soldier but he battles the noise more than most and his struggle against it is really involving.

There are also some interesting takes on horror themes, such as zombies, and It reminded me a little of Wanderers by Chuck Wendig but in many ways it’s very different. Its ending is absolutely brilliant to my mind. This is a horror thriller that totally delivers at the end and, when you know why, it makes you realise just how clever the novel has been, as well as exciting and tense. The authors of The Noise are a winning partnership and I really hope for more from them.

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The Forevers by Chris Whitaker

Hot Key Books | 2021 (8 July) | 352p | Review copy and bought copy | Buy the book

The Forevers by Chris WhitakerAsteroid Selena is on a collision course with Earth. Several extreme attempts have been made to divert it but all have failed. Now, ten years after its discovery, Mae Cassidy, aged just 17, knows the exact date of her death and it is barely days away. Just like her friends – and enemies – Mae is trying to cope with this knowledge while also dealing with the emotions of growing into adulthood, forming relationships with other teenagers who are also having to shape their last days.

Some fall. There have been three teenage suicides, the latest, Abi, was once Mae’s best friend and now that friendship is being turned against Mae by others in the community. For Mae and Abi were once Forevers, a secret society they developed for coping that makes others feel suspicious and excluded. Meanwhile Selena continues its relentless journey towards the Final.

I can think of no other author writing today who understands and portrays young people as Chris Whitaker can. His wonderful novels (do read them all!) are full of beautifully depicted children and teenagers, many of whom are isolated and lost. It wasn’t a surprise to me that he should now write a Young Adult novel, focusing on the very last generation of teenagers who face unique problems while still going through adolescence and school. Mae is a fascinating character. Her parents dead, she lives with an unsympathetic grandmother and cares for her blind little sister. Mae is already different from everyone else. But now, as the end comes closer, her friendships become more alive as she sees the world with intense, scrutinising eyes.

My favourite character is Felix, the boy who is determined not to sleep a single hour, and will do anything to win over the girl of his dreams who will barely look at him. Here is another reason why I love Chris Whitaker’s books – they are bleak and they are troubled but there is also humour and faith in goodness and kindness. Felix made me laugh time and time again.

The end of the world doesn’t just affect youngsters, of course, and we witness how it damages parents and others. Relationships are tested and ruined. Many become Leavers. People just vanish. Teachers lose motivation every bit as much as their students.

Through it all are memories of the schemes to divert or destroy Selena, and flashbacks to the friendship between Mae and Abi. This is, after all, a novel about friendship and love. For some people, this means religion, for others it means running away in hope of an earthly paradise, and for others it means joining together as the Forevers. It is all so beautifully explored by Chris Whitaker. It isn’t always an easy read – the minds of these teenagers are deeply troubled and fearful – but it is certainly powerful, engrossing and real.

And what a stunning cover!

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Cage of Souls by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Head of Zeus | 2019 | 624p | Review copy and bought copy | Listen to the book | Buy the book

Cage of Souls by Adrian TchaikovskyThe city of Shadrapar is all that is left of humanity on Earth. It’s built on the remains of countless civilisations, it contains no more than 100,000 souls. It is all there is and, because the sun is dying, soon there won’t even be that. But people have lost the ability to care. They’ve turned their backs on the past, there isn’t a future. Shadrapar is more prison than home. Once people might have regarded it as a kind of utopia, with an ideal government, but no more. Now that government consigns dissenters and free thinkers (those, for instance, who fantasise about fixing this world) to the Island, a prison set within a jungled swamp and inhabited by the real dregs of this society, including murderers, the insane, sadistic psychopaths, misfits (and that’s just the guards). It is to this dreadful place that academic Stefan Advani has been consigned. He reminds us continually that he isn’t brave, that he isn’t special in any way, but he is a true survivor and rebel. He’ll need to be. Cage of Souls is Stefan Advani’s testimony. In it he tells his story – the events that led up to his imprisonment as well as life within the Island, where nothing is more valued or more rare than a glimpse of the sky.

I am a huge fan of Adrian Tchaikovsky and his fabulous imagination, which once more carries us to a strange, dangerous and alien world, so vividly and evocatively described, filling our senses. It’s hard to imagine anyone who can conjure up strange worlds as well as this author and he outdoes even himself here. We’re not on another planet this time but instead on Earth a long way into the future. Nature has reclaimed most of the planet in this, its dying days, but it has transformed. This wouldn’t be an Adrian Tchaikovsky novel without weird and really quite frightening creatures and there are plenty of them to be found here in the swamps, rivers and jungles, and even in Shadrapar. This planet is now the home of scavengers. But there are also mutations and these fascinate and terrify Stefan in equal measure, as he becomes increasingly absorbed in the works of the famous, and now missing, ecologist Trethowan.

Cage of Souls is a testimony told in Stefan’s own words and it isn’t so much of a plotted adventure as an autobiography filled with adventures. We get to know Stefan very well indeed as he is prone to self-analysis as well as modesty. But it is the characters that he must deal with that absolutely fascinate, as well as the the locations that confine them – boats, prisons, jungles, underworlds, the city. The people are incredible. The absolutely terrifying Island Marshall isn’t easy to forget, nor are the other guards and overlords, male and female. Stefan develops a friendship with one of the guards, Peter, whose own story adds some incredible set pieces to the narrative. Other memorable figures include the repulsively horrible Transforming Man and the truly evil Gaki. I listened to the audiobook and the narrator David Thorpe does a tremendous job of bringing the voices of these people to life – I swear I shivered every time these people entered the stage. And then there are the web children and the monsters that can speak. All within the steaming, wet, claustrophobic jungle and underworld.

Cage of Souls is a substantial read – the audiobook is about 25 hours – and I found it thoroughly immersive and also obsessive. I found it so hard to pull myself away from it. You never know what’s going to happen next, because it could be anything. There are moments that are truly horrifying and so dark, especially when it’s brought home what has happened to Shadrapar. The references to past civilisations are fascinating. These are desolate lives in so many ways but Stefan finds life in himself and others, even hope through his friendships, difficult though they can be. It’s a tale of survival, it’s a history of Shadrapar, it’s a prison tale, and it’s a tale of exploration as Stefan heads deep into the jungles and must find it within himself to survive while holding on to his humanity. It’s thoroughly engrossing and gorgeously written.

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The Wave by Virginia Moffatt

Killer Reads | 2019 (ebook: 27 June, Pb: 5 September) | 400p | Review copy | Buy the book

The Wave by Virginia MoffattPoppy knows that tomorrow morning at about 8am she will die. A volcano is expected to collapse far out in the Atlantic, setting off a tsunami a 100-foot high that will devastate the coasts around the ocean, including Britain and Ireland. Poppy lives in the far west of Cornwall. The peninsula is gridlocked, the warning too brief. And so, preferring to meet her end as she chooses rather than sitting in a traffic jam, Poppy writes a Facebook post saying that she will spend her last day and night on the beach at her favourite place, Dowetha Cove, and anyone is welcome to join her. The post captures the imagination of people, whether safe and morbidly fascinated in what is going to happen or whether they’re trapped in Cornwall, too. A few of those travel to join Poppy on the beach and there they have what could have been the perfect day, if not for the shadow of the wave rushing so fast across the ocean to end their lives.

As soon as I received a copy of The Wave to review, I read it. I’m a big fan of disaster thrillers but this also has the appeal of a small group of people coming to terms with their own imminent mortality in such a beautiful place. I know Cornwall well and I can understand why people would be drawn to it at such a time, although Cornwall is now not a place of safety but a place of danger.

The Wave is not so much a novel about the tsunami itself but about the lives of the people who gather together, most of them strangers, on the beach: Poppy, Yan, James, Nikki, Margaret, Shelley and Harry. They’re all ages and, as they spend this time getting to know each other, they discover that they are each very different indeed but, while they have heated discussions or arguments about life, a couple of them form life-changing bonds. If only it weren’t too late.

The novel’s narratives flickers between all five in sections named after some of the prayer events that divide the spiritual day and night, such as lauds, prime and compline. This reflects the book’s at times contemplative nature as one character at least finds comfort in religious faith. The book isn’t overtly religious at all but religion is an important theme. As is, to a lesser extent, politics. I’m not sure I’d want to waste my last night on Earth debating party politics and Brexit, but this lot do. Mostly, though, these people do what you’d imagine – reflect on their lives, regret their mistakes, phone their families, cling to those with them, as well as drink wine and cook over an open fire, build sandcastles and enjoy the feel of the sun and sea air on their faces.

I must admit to some conflicting feelings about this novel. I found it utterly engrossing and couldn’t put it down but there is something about the book, and the people, that I didn’t completely get along with. Firstly, these people are obsessed with social media – and with the comments that people leave on their Facebook posts. It hardly seems any time at all to be worrying about trolls. Also, their phones and tablets never run out of battery, even though they’re camping on a beach for a day and a night and never off them. There’s a lot of time spent thinking about ex partners as well as, as mentioned before, arguments about politics. All of this combined, for me, to make the characters feel a bit vacuous and uninteresting.

And then there’s the matter of whether to try and escape from Cornwall or not. We’re told that the government has decided not to evacuate Cornwall but to focus on the northern coastal areas instead and trains are diverted up there. I don’t know about this… Also, when people are driving out of Cornwall and get stuck, they give up and just drive back again – as if only one side of the road is being used when lives depend on it. It feels as if everything is being set up to enable the situation of these people choosing to spend their last hours on the beach. Which is fine, but I did find myself nitpicking a little with the book.

Having said all that, there are moments of exquisite emotional agony here, especially in phone calls to family and in quiet moments of reflection and affection. The Cornish beach is beautifully described. The tension is maintained throughout, the mood of foreboding increases, and there were moments when I cried. It also made me think about my own life. It is such a thought-provoking scenario. So to sum up – although I did have my issues with the book they didn’t stop me reading it. In fact, I couldn’t put it down.

Emily Eternal by M.G. Wheaton

Hodder & Stoughton | 2019 (23 April) | 294p | Review copy | Buy the book

Emily Eternal by MG WheatonThe demise of the Sun was believed to be billions of years safely in the future but now, just a few years from the present day, the Earth is far darker than it should be. The forces that power the Sun are failing, resulting in the so-called Helios Event and the imminent extinction of life on Earth, including humanity. In just a few weeks radiation and severe cold and ceaseless night will end life. This tragedy is felt keenly by Emily. Emily is an Artificial Consciousness. She feels intensely and is able to move through transmitters into the consciousness of others, reliving their memories, taking their experiences as her own. She also has the mind of a computer and she is determined to do all in her extraordinary power to save the species she loves.

But these last days are dangerous as people try to deal with their imminent destruction in ways that they can handle – or not. A disaster puts Emily’s existence in jeopardy and she must run for her life alongside two human beings who have more to teach Emily about humanity and what it would mean were it to be completely lost.

I’m a big fan of speculative fiction, apocalyptic novels and techno thrillers and Emily Eternal has an irresistible premise. It largely succeeds because the whole novel is filled with the spirit of Emily, who is such a wonderful, memorable creation. The story is told in Emily’s own words and she tells two stories – of the approaching apocalypse, which is darkly fascinating, and of her own personal tragedy – that she is becoming fulfilled at a time when it’s too late. But her voice is never gloomy, even if it can be sad, because she is on a journey to learn all she can about the human race and be as close to them as possible.

I loved the descriptions of Emily’s exactly patterned daily routines. She lives as a virtual human and she has learned human emotions. As a result, Emily Eternal is perhaps even more of a romance than it is speculative or science fiction. Emily falls in love and these feelings are almost consuming. The depiction of her relationship with Jason is beautifully drawn, even if it did feel a little unlikely.

The novel is thrilling and very exciting. It’s also poignant and reflective as the world faces its end – the sadness of parents with newly born children, for instance, is just one situation brushed upon. There is a good mix of future technology, science and human emotion. But, fundamentally, Emily Eternal is a novel about what it means to be a human by someone who wants so desperately to be one. As a result of this, there is a sense of hope because humans, for all their many faults, are shown to be worth the saving.

I have my issues with the ending of the novel, which becomes rather muddied. All sorts of science fiction ideas are thrown into the mix, rather too rapidly to make as much sense as they could. It all goes a bit mad! But, nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed Emily Eternal. I loved Emily and she’s a joy to have in a novel that could have felt bleak and gloomy but instead she makes it sad yet hopeful. It’s as a science fiction apocalyptic romance that Emily Eternal succeeds the most. Emily will be very difficult to forget.

Winter World by A.G. Riddle

Head of Zeus | 2019 (Hb: 7 February; ebook: 26 February) | 389p | Review copy | Buy the book

Winter World by AG RiddleEarth should be getting warmer. All of the scientists are agreed. But the unexpected is happening and it’s happening very fast. Earth is getting very cold indeed. Glaciers are reclaiming the planet, pushing people into just a few enclaves where conditions are still survivable – for now. There isn’t enough space. War seems inevitable. But it will be brief because the evidence is clear – Earth will be covered in ice in a matter of weeks and most life, including humans, will face extinction. The crew aboard the International Space Station is working on experiments to find out what is going on and to try and put a halt to it. But then an object is spotted against the backdrop of the Sun. It’s a cataclysmic moment for the Space Station and is of great significance for all Earth – we are not alone in the universe. And whatever, whoever it is out there did not come in peace.

As soon as I read the premise of Winter World I was desperate to read it! I love apocalyptic thrillers and even more so when they’re combined with science fiction, especially first contact stories. As soon as this arrived, I read it and it is such an exciting read. There’s a Gravity feel to the opening chapters as ISS Commander Emma Matthews struggles for survival. Meanwhile, on Earth, scientist James Sinclair has his own battles to fight and we follow them both as their stories weave together into a thrilling science fiction apocalyptic adventure.

Half of the novel is set in space while the other half is on a frozen Earth and I enjoyed both of these. The Earth sections focus mostly on people as they try and do the best they can to survive while maintaining their relationships and humanity. I’m glad to say that conflict between nations doesn’t play as large a role as I feared. Instead it just adds tension. Mostly this is a novel about survival on a more personal scale. And it’s in these sections that we get to know Emma, James and their friends and family better.

The space sections are the most exciting. In fact, the action gets so intense at times that it does all get rather confusing and I found those pages a little hard to follow. But the intrigue of what has been discovered in space is absolutely spellbinding. I love this kind of thing.

There’s some science, there’s a little bit of romance, plenty of danger, and there are spaceships, alien artefacts and extreme weather – if I had to put together a recipe for a book I want to read then that would be about it. I do enjoy A.G. Riddle’s books. Some I’ve had trouble with but there are others I’ve loved. I always look forward to them. If you’re after a fun apocalyptic science fiction thriller to take your mind off some of the reality of life on Earth then you’re in the right place with Winter World.

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The Last by Hanna Jameson

Viking | 2019 (31 January) | 352p | Review copy | Buy the book

The Last by Hanna JamesonJon Keller left his home and family in California for a conference in a hotel in Switzerland unhappy about how he had left things. He really needed to sit down and work things out with his wife for the good of their two adored young daughters. Emails and texts are all very well but home seems such a long way away. And then those emails and texts stop. Everything stops. Modern life comes to an end. Survival instincts have to be dredged up from humanity’s distant prehistoric past. Because one morning, while Jon and his conference colleagues were eating breakfast, nuclear weapons fell on Washington DC and soon they fell everywhere, the last flickers of television chronicled the fall one by one of the world’s cities. Then there was nothing. For Jon, life has shrunk to the dimensions of this hotel, preserved from the bombs by its remote location, so far from cities and any settlements at all.

The Last tells the story of the end of the world from the perspective of one man stranded far from his home, family and country. Jon recounts events in his own words as he records events in a diary. It’s his testimony, a message to his family but ultimately intended only for himself, and its power partly lies in the fact that he can only recall the full details of what happened on that terrible, terrible day bit by bit. And so the narrative frequently returns to Day One.

This is a remote hotel and many fled on the day the world ended and so we have just a small group of men, women and children to observe as they work out how to survive. It’s such a compelling and involving story. But there’s more to it than that when Jon discovers the body of a murdered young girl in the hotel water tanks. Jon is determined to discover the truth about her death, to do right by her as he couldn’t by his daughters, presumed dead in San Francisco. And so The Last is also a murder mystery.

It is, to be honest, a little difficult to focus on the murder mystery in this situation and so our focus instead is on the people in the hotel as they try to form a postapocalypse community, with varying degrees of success. I’m not sure how much I liked Jon but I realise that we’re not seeing him or anyone else at their best. I wasn’t keen on the sections in which characters took refuge in drugs and drink and it was all a bit Lord of the Flies at times, with some relationships becoming tormented. But there are some great and memorable scenes and I loved the way in which the novel developed. It is full of surprises and the end was as good as the excellent beginning.

I love apocalyptic novels and The Last has such a fantastic premise and I particularly enjoyed its setting in Switzerland, becoming increasingly cold and desolate under the encroaching nuclear winter. The joy felt by characters on hearing the rare song of a bird is palpable. There are gems in this novel. I heartily recommend it. And what a brilliant cover!

Drop by Drop by Morgan Llywelyn

Tor Books | 2018 (1 July) | 320p | Review copy | Buy the book

Drop by Drop by Morgan LlywelynIn the small American town of Sycamore River something strange is happening. When Nell Bennett tries to withdraw money out of the Sycamore and Staunton Mercantile Bank cashpoint, her card isn’t just chewed, it turns to mush. And then the pens in the bank begin to ooze. You could almost laugh it off but reports on the TV suggest that these random occurrences aren’t limited to Sycamore River or indeed to the United States. In the weeks to come people will look back and know that this was the time when the Change began – when plastic around the world, bit by bit, drop by drop, began to melt.

Drop by Drop is a wonderful book and curiously not at all what I was expecting from its description. It does indeed tell the tale of what happens to a small town when plastic disappears from life, as well as hinting at the repercussions of this phenomenon in a wider volatile world, but this is essentially a novel about how the people of Sycamore River face this challenge and do their best to overcome it. The fact that the Change doesn’t happen at once but is instead an evolving situation really adds something very intriguing to the story.

This is a novel driven by a large cast of fabulous characters. We’re given the time to get to know so many of the inhabitants of this small town, especially the people who work in the bank and their families, scientists, vets, retired people, people keeping quiet about what their jobs actually are, newspaper publishers, and then there’s their offspring. So many lives and I became caught up in them all. I love Morgan Llywelyn’s writing, the way that he makes each character, whether male or female, young or old, individual and unique. Some are likeable, others are far from it, but they’re all interesting, and they’re doing all sorts of incredible things during the Change – you either adapt or you don’t. And some do fall by the wayside and occasionally in the most unexpected ways.

This is a science fiction novel, though. It’s set at some point in the near future. People rely on their AllCom’s for communication, cars are self-driving, but generally life is as we know it. In fact there is a general nostalgia for the old days (when cars had less plastic in them and all of your data wasn’t stored on a device that could melt into useless sludge in just a moment). I liked the fact that many of the characters in Drop By Drop are older, not that this makes all of them wiser.

There’s a message in here clearly as we’re shown what life can be like when plastic oozes out of our lives. How it can be catastrophic, apocalyptic even. So perhaps it’s time we found alternatives? But there’s nothing preachy about the message. This is a thoroughly entertaining and absorbing read from start to finish. This is the first in a trilogy and I can’t wait for the next book, which is set up very well indeed.

Shelter by Dave Hutchinson

Solaris | 2018 (14 June) | 304p | Review copy | Buy the book

Shelter by Dave HutchinsonIt’s almost a hundred years since the Sisters, a fragmentary asteroid, hit Earth. Much of the planet was overwhelmed. Those who survived the initial impacts, with their floods and fires, then had to endure the Long Autumn, a time of famine and starvation, brutality and cruelty. Finally, it’s drawing to an end. Earth is beginning to recover. But everything that was once taken for granted is gone. The past is now something to be scavenged.

At last the rains that have deluged southern England are beginning to dry. But most people haven’t been further than a day’s horse ride in their entire lives. Rumours, though, are moving between the communities of isolated farmers and small towns. Oxford, for example, is a no-go area, although nobody is really sure why. There’s a foreign fleet moored off the coast but nobody knows why it’s there, and there are boats moving silently through the flooded Somerset Levels. West and East are no longer connected by land. There is talk of a tyranny in Kent that is drawing people to it. Elsewhere, it’s the daily struggle for survival that consumes the mind.

Shelter by Dave Hutchinson, the author of the compelling near-future Europe novels, is the first of the shared universe Tales of the Aftermath series which will be continued by Adam Roberts later this year. Dave Hutchinson is such a fine writer. His prose is bleakly beautiful and his characters carry their doom within their souls. In Shelter, Dave Hutchinson continues what he does so well.

The setting of Berkshire and Oxfordshire during the apocalyptic aftermath is painted brilliantly. This is my neck of the woods and I loved to see it portrayed in such unusual style. It made me take another look at the world around me and imagine it all ravaged. This feels real. It’s frightening, alien and terrifyingly possible. This book frightened me.

The characters have so much to suffer through. Shelter isn’t an easy book to read, at least for me, largely because its people have had to compromise to survive to such an extent that possibilities of a future hope now seem destroyed. We meet quite a large group of characters scattered across this region. Time is needed to get to know them all as we move from one community to another and discover the harsh reality of each. At times we might feel liking for one or other of them and then that empathy is smashed on the rocks. There are moments here that shocked me, one in particular, so much so that I had to put the book down for a day or two.

While I admire so much the vision and prose of Shelter, and relish its Oxfordshire and Berkshire setting, I found the novel too grim for me. The behaviour of most of these people is so ugly. The Long Autumn has robbed them of their humanity. Perhaps there is hope now that the weather is settling and the past is beginning to be forgotten but for many salvation is an unimaginable dream. So while I appreciated elements of Shelter, not least its power and bleak beauty, I found it hard to read. But, if you enjoy a compelling apocalyptic tale and can cope with characters who appear to have no mercy left in them, then I think Shelter could be for you. Dave Hutchinson continues to be one of the most exciting and soulful writers of contemporary science fiction.

See David’s review at Blue Book Balloon.

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