Friday, 22 July 2011

The Afterblight Chronicles: America review

You may already be aware of the Afterblight series from Abaddon books. If you haven’t (or indeed, if you have), the series is set in the aftermath of a worldwide plague that has wiped out the majority of the planet’s population.
This volume collects three of the early novels in the series. The first two books in the run: The Culled by Simon Spurrier and Kill or Cure by Rebecca Levene are here alongside Death Got No Mercy by fan favourite Al Ewing.

The Culled serves brilliantly as an introduction to the world, and the unnamed main character is an excellent vehicle – his job in the previous world allowed him access to information on the plague that he kindly shares with the reader.
The story itself is a pretty good one too. The central mystery of the book- the Quest our hero is on- is well handled. Spurrier drip-feeds information throughout the book on this while at the same time engaging in some major world building- he has the job of setting things up for every book that will follow after all!
The author also seems to delight in putting his lead character through some of the most horrendous tortures (something he shares with Al Ewing in his contribution), dropping him into some severe situations- all of which makes for an exciting book.
Think James Bond meets Mad Max and you’re part-way there!

Levene’s Kill or Cure is a clever almost sort of follow-up to Spurrier’s novel. The books cross paths on a couple of occasions, but it would be a shame to tell you exactly how, as it would spoil it somewhat.
Levene takes what Spurrier has laid out in his book and builds on it admirably, expanding on things he has hinted on and adding more clever ones of her own.
Her lead character is altogether more sympathetic than Spurrier’s, and the reader really feels for her as things go pear shaped. It is not without moments that give the reader pause. The lead is very resourceful. She is able to fire a gun for example, with considerable skill. This is explained somewhat, but still sticks out a bit- as does the ease with which she kills. I would have thought that a doctor, for that is what she is, would have at least had slight pause before killing. Then again, I have never been in a post-apocalypse situation, so really can’t say how anyone should or would act!

And then we come to Ewing’s Death Got no Mercy. If you are in any way familiar with Al’s oeuvre, then you’ll know roughly what to expect here. I’ve went on record as saying that Ewing is going to be the major talent in comics- certainly in British comics, and probably on the world stage too- in the next few years. But let’s not forget that he’s a hell of a prose writer too.
This book is... mental. As series editor Jon Oliver says in his intro to this collection, Al described it as ‘A man goes to San Francisco and kills everyone’. And Ewing is as good as his word.
Cade, the lead character, is quite a creation. He is a genuine force of nature- a character propelled onwards by a single purpose. Along the way towards this purpose he does a lot of very violent things. Brutally violent things is short and punchy (haha!) chapters. But they are also very funny things. The violence is so massively over the top that the reader can do nothing but be swept along by the wave of brutality. He has a fist fight with a grizzly bear.
There are a couple of hiccups there though. There is a meta-fictional passage in there that is clever and well written, and I can understand why it is there, but is only succeeded in pulling me out of the book for a few pages. And Cade, the lead character, meets a group of folks along the way that for me were a too easy joke to make (they were still funny though!).
But having said that, this book is great. Cade is a wonderfully brutal character, and I for one wouldn’t mind seeing more of him.

And that brings me to my only real problem with the three books here. This does not apply as much to Ewing’s book as to the other two, although he is guilty of it to an extent.
Each book, while being a self contained tale it its own right, ends with the lead character heading off on either another quest or on the next stage of the one they were on, and to the best of my knowledge, none of the creators has returned to their stories to tell the next chapter.
On balance though, this is a very good value collection, and if you haven’t yet visited the world of the Afterblight, I suggest you give it a try.

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