I have always loved reading post-apocalyptic fiction, so when the opportunity arose to review Afterblight Chronicles: America I jumped at the chance.
Over the years novels such as Stephen King’s The Stand, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, Robert McCammon’s Swan Song and, most recently, Alden Bell’s The Reapers are the Angels have shown me a vision of an America nearly destroyed, an America with a small number of survivors forced to live in a word devoid of hope, a world where civilisation no longer exists. Some must wonder why anyone in their right mind would spend hours submerged in such a depressing setting but I have always found novels of this type to be full of hope, where humanity is given a fresh slate and allowed to start again, hopefully not repeating the errors of the past (which of course they will, but still…).
The novels that I have mentioned above are all thoughtful, with a sedate pace and I expected more of the same from Afterblight Chronicles: America.
So it was with the mental equivalent of a slap-in-the-face that Simon Spurrier’s The Culled hit me. This omnibus’s opener is so brutal and action-packed that I don’t think I’ve ever read anything quite like it before; think of the film 28 Weeks Later and you might come close to imagining the sheer pace and violence of this novel. The “hero” is in all honesty a rather horrible – and basically psychotic - human being; an ex-service (MI6 possibly) man who was a deadly killing machine even before the plague* hit and a man who does not find himself at all out of place in the anarchy that follows. But when, living deep within a fetid London, he receives a signal and a chance to regain his humanity, he chooses to travel across the Atlantic, fighting gangs and the all-powerful Church of the New Dawn along the way. This is testosterone-fuelled stuff but don’t let that fool you into thinking that it reads like a screenplay from a major Hollywood movie as this would be doing Spurrier a major disservice. This author writes extremely well - with characterisation and setting not being forgotten – while showing admirable bravery in making his lead so unpleasant. The Culled is a book that will lead you breathlessly through the blighted wastelands of London and New York City.
* A quick explanation about the plague, or The Cull as it is also referred. It was a killer virus that killed approximately 93% of the world’s population, only sparing those of a certain rare blood type.
And so, once you have recovered your breath after The Culled, it is time to move onto the second novel, Kill or Cure, written by Rebecca Levene.
I thought that this collection benefitted greatly from both the change of author and change of lead at this point. No matter how much I enjoyed The Culled there is only so much beefcake a person can take, so the transference to a female lead and a (slightly) less frenetic pace was welcome. I also found Rebecca Levene’s style rather more to my personal taste.
This time the protagonist has a name, Jasmine, and she is a haunted schizophrenic and partner of our “hero” from The Culled. Levene ties both stories together smartly and Jasmine’s quest to find a cure - which begins with her at the end of five long years spent trapped in an underground government bunker, topped up to the gills with opiates, through to life on the high seas with new-age pirates and Cuban zombies - is a fantastic journey across a fractured world.
Kill or Cure was my favourite of the three books.
And then, to end matters, comes Death Got No Mercy, a tongued-in-cheek, violent and bloody romp through San Francisco and its environs. The third book is penned by 2000AD writer Al Ewing - for whom this is his third outing for Abaddon Books (El Sombra and I, Zombie) – and a look at the cover ((a mean-looking guy punching a grizzly bear) told me that we were heading back to the larger-than-life hero and high body-count of the opener.
The man on the cover is Cade and he is not exactly a caring individual. But when his companion's insulin supply runs short he surprisingly acts to remedy the situation and heads down to San Francisco, taking on an assortment of religious maniacs, cannibals and psychotic hippies who are every but as comfortable in dealing out death as he is himself. I did enjoy this story and this was helped by the author not taking things too seriously.
Afterblight Chronicles: America has a certain comic-book feel to it (particularly The Culled and Death Got No Mercy) and I’m sure the fact that Spurrier and Ewing have both worked on 2000AD played a big part here. Although this collection was not my usual slice of post-apocalyptic cake I found it more than palatable and a great deal of fun. Some may pigeon-hole this work as pulp fiction but I think that would be unfair as the writing skills of the three authors are high and each story is involving. Recommended for those who like their post-apocalyptic fiction to be full of action and larger-than-life anti-heroes.
Paperback: 672 pages
Publisher: Rebellion (23 Jun 2011)
Review by Floresiensis
Afterblight Chronicles: America written by Simon Spurrier
The Afterblight Chronicles Omnibus Vol 1: America, features three action-packed novels set in dangerous, post-apocalyptic world rules by crazed gangs and strange cults. [...]
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