You know when you read a book stays with you long after reading it? OK, so I’ve only just finished this novel, but I can envisage it doing exactly that.
I managed to snag this beauty for free during a promotional couple of days, which was a bonus in itself. I like apocalyptic stuff, I like horror stuff, free stuff is also pretty good. I read an interview with Keith Anthony Baird where he discussed his influences on writing, and this, along with the other aforementioned reasons, certainly piqued my interest.
But this was certainly not what I was expecting.
I’m not exactly an aficionado when it comes to post-apocalyptic stories, I mean I’ve read a few, but this was so very different to what I thought the genre entails. Most of the other stories I’ve read featured zombies or some other strange creatures, a fight for survival across a barren wasteland, a band of other survivors who are less than helpful to the protagonist(s), and a purpose for the main character that gave them motivation and elicited empathy on behalf of the reader.
Well, there was none of that here. And this was surprisingly refreshing.
You see, in this novel, the apocalypse happened years and years ago. What we’re treated to here is not the sudden need to survive the change that’s been inflicted on the characters, but the lives that they have been leading for as long as most of them can remember. For most, the apocalypse was that thing that happened ages ago and if you can remember it, you’re boring and old!
Society crumbled, and it was all mankind’s fault for acting like an absolute dick. Nuclear war ravaged the world and now settlements live independently from each other, scared about what is beyond their ‘safe’ city walls.
The city here is known as ‘the Ark’ and it houses a brotherhood of holy people who still believe that Christianity will save them. The leaders of the city are (surprise, surprise) a little corrupt to say the least, the poor work in the markets scavenging whatever they can to get by, and those considered unworthy of life here and sent to the Furnace, an underground prison that is probably worse than death.
But just when everyone thought things couldn’t get any more desolate, an evil force is approaching to destroy not only their flesh, but their souls.
One of the most brilliant things about this book was the setting of the Ark. Even though this story is set in the future, the lives of the denizens are almost primitive. Well, I suppose they would be, post-apocalypse and all. In fact the only hint of modern living are the guns and other weapons carried by the guards. The brotherhood meet in medieval-like settings, with rituals and practices that wouldn’t seem out of place in a story written a few hundred years ago.
Another thing to mention is the prose. This is Keith Anthony Baird’s first novel, but reading it you’d think he’d been at it for years. At times the descriptions did seem to be, not waffling, more like ‘very descriptive,’ but every time that poisonous thought entered my mind we were back into the action, so to speak. Maybe it’s my short(ish) attention span, but I found the pacing to be perfect.
I heard it said once about the superb prog metal band, Tool, that you don’t listen to them you experience them. I think that’s a good way of describing this book. It was certainly an experience. The day-to-day happenings in the Ark where you just know something bad’s coming, and the journey of the evil force (not really The Devil as such, that’s just the pathetic name mere mortals have given it) are gripping. In fact, the actions of the latter are truly abhorrent and diabolical. There’s certainly no let up on the gore front. Plenty of blood is spilt in harrowing and graphic detail.
I’ve got this far without saying too much about the plot, and I’m not going to as you really need to experience this for yourself. This book is going to whirl around my head for days and maybe even weeks to come. I probably won’t go so far as to leave the light on at night, but I’m pulling the duvet over my face that’s for sure!
Categories: book review