Charlie Parker’s back in his ninth outing, and his own situation is in some sort of order for once. His personal life appears to have reached a plateau of consistency; the ghosts and memories of his past are still there, but muted with time after the devastating revelatory events of The Lovers. Importantly, he’s also got his Private Investigator license back, and it doesn’t take long for him to become embroiled in a case and a cast of characters who, in their own indirect ways, help guide him towards the destiny that awaits him in a book (hopefully) way down the line.
The Whisperers commences with a brilliantly written and cleverly deceptive chapter set in Baghdad’s Iraq Museum in 2003, wherein looters remove some ancient treasures under the cover of a gun battle between US forces and the Fedayeen. Among the items taken is a box, and in that box is another box, and within that box something ancient waits…
What makes the zombie apocalypse so alluring to both readers and writers is not necessarily the zombies themselves, but the freedom such a scenario allows for the portrayal of human relationships. Against a gruesome backdrop of flesh eating automatons nothing else matters but the fight for survival. The lengths to which those ‘unfortunate’ enough to survive the initial breakdown of society will go to to ensure that survival, firstly of themselves, and then of the human race, form the structure and events of most of the zombie genre’s novels to date. Sometimes there is a place for hope in these books. And sometimes, albeit very,very rarely, there is time for love. Such an emotion dominates Carrie Ryan‘s wonderful debut novel The Forest of Hands & Teeth.
By setting the events about 15 to 20 years after the outbreak, Ryan is able to introduce an established belief system, a quasi-religion, to the lore of the zombie. Mary lives in an isolated village, surrounded by fences that keep out the hungry undead that wander the landscape. The village is in the middle of a huge forest that seemingly goes on forever. Or at least that is what the children and teenagers are told, for this village is governed by the Sisterhood, a group of elder women who maintain the status-quo through strict tutelage of the Scripture, a regime of hard work and constant vigilance, and a societal set-up that ensures the best possible chance for the continuance of the family line. Read more
In 2008 Joseph D’Lacey unlocked the pen and set free MEAT, a dystopian and possibly post-apocalyptic novel that coupled religious cults and corrupt governance with unspeakable food production sources and techniques – authoritarian hierarchies and processes enabling the isolated town of Abyrne to survive without help from an outside world that might not even be there.
D’Lacey’s second novel, Garbage Man, takes us straight to the seeds of an impending environmental apocalypse, allowing us to watch as its roots spread intractably throughout the town of Shreve, a town that is just like any other in today’s United Kingdom.
Mason Brand is an outsider, a man who turned his back on society and his once successful career as a photographer. Living in the deepest countryside, with an old farmer as his guide, Brand learnt about himself, about the nature of nature and its relationship with man. He understands nature evolves to survive, that its processes cannot be predicted and that it simply doesn’t sit back and take abuse. He’s heard and responded to ‘the calling’. Now, giving society one last chance before he retreats forever into the wilds, he lives quietly in Shreve, shunned by almost everyone in the town, the town eccentric.
Shreve sits next to a massive landfill site, a noxious influence when the wind blows in the direction of the town. This influence is spreading, the land unable to cope with the rubbish and the poisonous chemicals being pumped into the earth. And when this brew also contains unwanted human matter, and is imbued with malicious intent, guilt and greed, it shouldn’t be surprising that a strange hybridised life-form, the fecalith, emerges from the sticken ground. Mason Brand has seen the signs; once again he’s heard the calling, and this time it’s right on his doorstep, it has a message and a command he cannot deny.
I loved Brand’s character, a figure I immediately found myself able to associate with during these harsh concretised times. After a solid week’s work, go for a walk, out of earshot of traffic if possible, and feel that money/work/time focus flow out of you to be replaced by whatever you allow… It’s a simple thing to do, but there’s certainly the ability for all of us to hear ‘the calling’ in one form or another, no matter where you live, or what your feelings are for the countryside.
D’Lacey’s especially adept at showing us the everyday stresses that afflict Shreve’s teenagers, their blossoming but untrusting relationships, their already jaded world-views, the parental and peer pressure that blinkers their thoughts, reducing their aspirations to the mundane. This frustration and jealousy threatens to overwhelm at times, (but isn’t that just how the real world works anyway?), but D’Lacey manages the trick of energising his characters through these emotions, making us care for them, or at least stay interested in them.
As the garbage crawls and spreads throughout Shreve the lives of the protagonists draw closer together through Mason Brand, the only one who understands what is about to happen, the man who is mainly responsible for that vital evolutionary stage of the fecalith, the struggle for sentience. Geoff Nelder‘s already suggested that Garbage Man should have been called Gaia’s Revenge as it most definitely shares an outlook with James Lovelock’s Gaia hypothesis: the earth as a single organism, everything affecting everything else. As with MEAT, there is a strong moral message; a message of caution that D’Lacey interweaves seamlessly with solid horror plotting, without stinting on the gore and cleverly paced action.
Fast becoming the master of contemporary eco-horror, D’Lacey’s voice is absolutely unique in the field; and the final chapters, depicting an evolution of almost biblical proportions are simply stunning.
Garbage Man is published on May 7th 2009 by Bloody Books.
Joseph D’Lacey and Bill Hussey (The Absence) are celebrating the publication of their second novels with a tour of some haunted locations around the United Kingdom; and with readings and signings at the Wood Green Bookshop on May 6th, and at Borders on Oxford Street in London on May 7th. They’ll also be promoting the Horror Reanimated website, as well as giving away a limited edition Horror Reanimated chapbook, Echoes, to anyone who attends.
Note: I work with Joseph D’Lacey and Bill Hussey on the Horror Reanimated website.
Well, hello there. So now that I’ve finally got some bits and pieces sneaking out into the real-world, (from the twilight world of acceptances), I’m setting up this place. It’s named after one of my favourite novels written by one of my favourite authors, Basil Copper. The Great White Space may also be an appropriate title if I get lazy, sell nothing else, or simply have nothing of interest to say.
Please check out the Stories page where you can find details of my published writing.
I have no intention of making The Great White Space a daily destination as, for me, (at least at the moment), the writing and publication of said writing doesn’t progress quickly enough to warrant daily updates. However, placing some news and stories, a few book and film reviews, as well as some other snippets of genre-related news here and there might hopefully make this a place of interest, and somewhere to return now and then.