Free Dystopian Novella – A Most Apocalyptic Christmas

dystopian novellaWhy not get into the real Christmas spirit with a post-apocalyptic action story? My new novella, A Most Apocalyptic Christmas, is a fast, frantic and violent ride through the Court of Chrimbo, a wasteland community that’s found all the wrong ways to embrace the holiday season.

Available now on Kindle and for free to members of my mailing list, it features fantastic cover art from Bob Wright (illustrator of The English Tenses and the wonderful Gun City Bohemian cover).

Get the novella here or pick it up for a pittance on Kindle.

A Most Apocalyptic Christmas

On the night before Christmas, mercenary Scullion’s ride home is ambushed halfway between the last surviving cities in America. Concerned only with getting drunk for the holiday, his attempts to abandon his fellow passengers to bandits lead him on a collision course with a barbaric community who have utterly distorted the seasonal spirit. This is one madcap night he cannot survive alone, challenging his perceptions of the meaning of Christmas.

A Most Apocalyptic Christmas is a near-future dystopian novella, set in a war-ravaged land where chaotic city states are all that are left of once powerful countries. Born fighters like the thug Scullion are the predominant survivors in this desolate world devoid of resources, comforts and hope.

This Faergrowe Free State novella takes place in the same world of the screenplay The Faergrowe Principle.

Read this novella free

A Most Apocalyptic Christmas is available at a nominal price on Amazon, or you can get it absolutely free in PDF form by joining my mailing list here.

What makes Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” so brilliantly bleak

post-apocalyptic novels, the road, book cover, by cormac mccarthyRevisiting my older dabbles in post-apocalyptic fiction, I’m writing reviews and profiles for my new website dedicated to the genre, Post-Apocalyptic Books. The following is my review of The Road, by Cormac McCarthy, produced for that site, but an effective example to place here as well:

The Road by Cormac McCarthy is especially well known now, thanks to the star-studded movie of the same name, but it was doing well long before the film’s release. Its won multiple awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (2007), receiving serious attention from the literary critics, not normally shown to entries of the post-apocalypse genre. Unlike many of the books in my listsThe Road isn’t exactly sci-fi or horror. It’s a harrowing emotional journey; primarily a story of the relationship between a father and his son, despite its apocalyptic setting. Continue reading

Roadwork by Stephen King: book review

roadwork by stephen king book reviewRoadwork is another of the “Bachman Books“, written by Stephen King under a pseudonym (supposedly because he wanted to see if he could reproduce his success), and the next in the series I’ve been reading following The Long Walk. Like The Long Walk, it’s one of very few Stephen King stories I wasn’t already aware of without having read it. It’s also unlike anything of King’s I’m familiar with. To look at the novel’s synopsis, its blurb or its early front covers, you’d be led to believe it’s a novel about a man’s tense, violent stand-off against the progress of a new road. A siege, perhaps. This is really not the case. Continue reading

What makes The Long Walk by Stephen King so compelling

The long walk, stephen king, book review

Written under a pseudonym (Richard Bachman), The Long Walk is unmistakably a Stephen King book. It’s got all the themes of friendship, adolescent mishaps and extreme horror you’d expect from King, with the added bonus of feeling strangely, compellingly profound. Whilst at the same time being a novel that spends its course describing a group of 100 young men walking along some roads. As we all know from a number of manifestations of the dream of the Great American Novel, though, it’s whilst people trudge aimlessly along roads in America that the most profound thinking and life-changing experiences occur. Continue reading

Immense, artistic and exciting – American Gods by Neil Gaiman

American Gods book review

American Gods by Neil Gaiman is a truly immense work of art. Like all of Gaiman’s writing, it feels like more than a simple fictional yarn. It feels like the story itself has history, and it’s difficult to see where real life (in this case, American locations and popular mythologies) stop and the make-belief begins. He has a unique talent for weaving his own creative ideas together with lasting traditional tales, making the craziest stories come to life. It’s something he continued to do well in Anansi Boys, but I’m glad I read that, the vague sequel to American Gods,  first – because American Gods would’ve set the standard too high to follow. Continue reading

Do you always finish reading a novel?

should you finish reading novelsI’ve encountered more than a few people who say they don’t. Who believe it’s only polite to see a book through, no matter how unenjoyable you find it or how dull it seems. I’ve seen a few such books all the way through myself, but I usually end up skimming sizeable parts of them. And even then it’s only so I can fairly go away and explain why I didn’t like the novel. But it’s bad practice, I think, to keep reading a novel you don’t like, for completion’s sake, for one simple reason: it cheats you of time you could be spending on a good book.
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Paul Auster’s In the Country of Last Things: an exercise in extended misery

in the country of last things, book reviewOn its surface, In the Country of Last Things is an out-of-character post-apocalyptic novel from the ordinarily contemporary chronicler Paul Auster. That’s how it was lauded to me, in response to my post-apocalyptic novels list, but in fact this story is timeless, without a defined apocalypse. It is more accurately a dystopian novel, and an eerily intangible one at that. Not that the world Auster has created isn’t realistic or easy to grasp – quite the opposite, it’s a substantial and vivid vision – but the nature of the setting and the story give a sense of timeless decay. Continue reading

Classic apocalyptic fiction: The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham

day of the triffids, book reviewAnother in my series of post-apocalytpic novel reviews, The Day of the Triffids is known by many as not only an archetype post-apocalyptic story but also one of the all time great sci-fi books. From the very start it’s easy to see why – it’s written in an easily accessible way and the theme is immediately novel and gripping. Coming into it raw you’re led to believe it’s a disaster story about the attack of giant plants, but it quickly becomes apparent that it’s about a lot more than that. In fact the titular triffids play only a small role in a story of survival that questions human conventions.

Briefly told, the story follows Bill Masen, one of very few people left in London with the ability to see after the effects of an alleged comet. As he bowls about the city trying to make sense of things, he makes friends with a young lady and realises that humans without sight will be helpless against the rise of the triffids, a new species of carnivorous plant apparently engineered during the Cold War. Whilst the triffids are crucial in providing the lasting threat of the new world, in fact it is the blindness that creates the post-apocalyptic landscape of this novel, and it does so in a unique way. In questioning what would happen if the human population suddenly went blind, Wyndham builds a frighteningly realistic portrayal of how quickly society would decline. There are no zombies, there isn’t even a weapon that effectively kills the masses – there is simply the loss of one of our human senses, and it completely transforms the world.

The story is expertly crafted for the most part – the considerations of survival Wyndham makes are spot on, his attention to detail admirable and his characters all well-defined. Croker, in particular, is a superb character, a subversive orator used as a voice-piece for exposing theories about what the disaster means for the world, and what civilisation needs to survive. It’s a novel with many carefully plotted themes, including Cold War paranoia, the damning effects of miss-used technology, gender roles and social consciousness – however it is one that Croker dwells on that comes across strongest. The theme that without leisure time, the human race cannot advance. In fact, it is destined to regress. That is, knowledge cannot exist without the free time to foster it, and that is the ultimate damning point for a human race beset by the need to survive.

The triffids themselves are an inspired feature in the post-apocalypse, but the strength of the story, the details of survival and rebuilding society, are almost universal, and could be ported to any post-apocalyptic story (28 Days Later, Danny Boyle says, was partly inspired by this novel). In fact the plants themselves aren’t in the story anywhere near much as you would expect – the human influence is far more important in the way things change. That’s why the book remains so popular, and the story has been recreated so many times, including for radio and film. It’s not a horror story, not a tale of giant plants taking over the world, it’s a story of how easily the human race could fall apart with one luxury removed from us, and what it might take to keep going.

If you haven’t read The Day of the Triffids, I highly recommend you do. It’s not long, either. Available from Amazon here.

Post-apocalyptic book trailer: Wixon’s Day

book trailerFlexing my video-editing muscles, which lie dormant too often, I’ve put together a book trailer for my novel Wixon’s Day. Rather than just post the video, I thought I’d write a little bit about the making of this trailer. Partly because it might prove informative, but mostly because I can’t resist filling blog posts with writing. For those just wanting the trailer, here it is in full:
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Book review: Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

Anansi BoysAnansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Neil Gaiman has a real knack for taking classic fairytale elements and spinning them into unique modern adventures. Before reading Anansi Boys, I was only familiar with Sandman and his TV and movie work, so I wasn’t too sure what to expect from his novels. But it did not disappoint. Having elected not to read the blurb, until about a third of the way through I wasn’t entirely sure what it was all about, but it was so much fun that I didn’t care – I knew something crazy was going on and I loved it.

Like with his other work, the beauty of Gaimain’s storytelling is that you’re not entirely sure what is based on real-world myth and tradition and what is the product of his own creative mind. In this case, by using the traditions of a culture I’m sure a large part of his readership aren’t overly familiar with, that blur between genuine mythology and Gaiman’s creation is as hazy as ever. It achieves the unlikely by giving a surreal and dreamlike story a truly authentic edge.

Another reviewer noted that the way the author deals with race is also particularly interesting. He describes all his white characters as such when introducing them, which struck me as quite strange until it becomes apparent that a number of the main characters aren’t defined as white (judging by their background and culture you can soon then deduce their descent). It puts obscure mythologies (for some, at least) onto a level field with the ones you are familiar with, making you wonder how these grand folklore stories might have alluded you. Well, that’s coming from my ignorant background – I’m sure the story is even more rewarding for those who are familiar with the lore, as Gaiman certainly seems to have done his research.

On the story itself: Anansi Boys is delightfully paced with some vibrant characters and a tale that’s both tense and funny. Neil Gaiman is good at making his characters instantly distinguishable and likeable, whilst preserving a sense of depth – the way Spider changes, in particular, is an excellent study of subtle character development.

By it on Amazon here.

View all my reviews