A review of Adam Bakers’ “Killchain.”

Horror writer David Moody runs “Infected Books,” a publishing company devoted to horror fiction.  Infected Books are roughly half way through a year long monthly series of novellas of zombie fiction by different horror writers.  “Killchain” is Adam Baker’s contribution.

Adam Baker has written a four book series of novels that tell the story of an infection that literally falls in to Earth from the stars, and spawns a change in people transmitted through scratch or bite.  They become a host to a  mutagen that shoots tendrils, spikes and tumorous growths, all metallic in nature and appearance, through the human body, whilst the personality is destroyed and the creature becomes part of a hive mind and a ravaging, snarling inhuman killer.  Book one, “Outpost,” is set on an oil rig in the Arctic as the infection hits civilisation, it is followed by “Juggernaut,” a prequel of sorts set in Iraq as a group of CIA hired mercenaries are tasked unwittingly to investigate one of the ground zero’s of the infection, Book three, “Terminus,” is set in an irradiated New York as a military hired rescue team go deep into the subway system to find  a Doctor who just mind have found a cure to the infection, and “Impact” sees the crew of a  downed military flight try to survive both the desert and the infected. For more on the books see the author’s website “Dark Outpost.”

There is little sign of hope that humanity will beat the infection in Baker’s stories.  They are incredibly bleak in tone, in that you feel it is a given that the cockroaches are humanity’s successor.  His lead character’s are usually female and they offer a tough goodness that offers some redemption as a testament to humanity, but it is a testament that is doomed not to be heard or remembered.

His prose style follows James Ellroy’s clipped staccato style.  The invention, gore and nature of the monsters are all a cut above and reference the Thing, the ‘fast’ undead of World War Z/ 28 Days Later, and David Cronenberg style body horror.

In his contribution to “Year of the Zombie,” Adam Baker sets his story in another of his infection’s Ground Zeros, where the infection has fallen to earth from downed satellites and space stations, this time in Mogadishu.  We begin in the home of a local resident, Daniel,   who learns that quarantined infected has broken out of a stadium where they were being held, and the city is close being overrun.  But before he can flee he is faced with the sudden intrusion of the CIA into his home in the form of agent Eliza, part of a kill-team tasked with eliminating a Russian Official, and  her “Mechanic,” a mercenary named Ben.  They are later joined by Sanjeev, an “asset” brainwashed into martyrdom through carrying out a human bomb mission against said Russian official.

The story of the infection in the city is the background to the story of Sanjeev’s mission, told in a tense POV from his hidden earpiece camera, watched carefully and guided by radio by Eliza.  Then there are the bluffs and betrayals the trio in the room play on each other.  As the situation in the city deteriorates, so does the situation between them in the room.

It’s a strong, black espresso of a horror story, gripping and bleak.  A recommended read, but I would say for genre fans only.

 

 

A review of Mitch Alboms’ “Have a Little Faith.”

This will be a heartfelt review, as this is very much a book of the heart.  It has been a long time since I have read anything as wonderful, inspiring and hopeful as this book. More than once I felt myself welling up.  The book lands some pretty hefty emotional punches, without falling into the trap of being manipulative or sugar coated.  It’s a book of spiritual wisdom whilst being rooted very firmly in the human.  The style of the prose is crisp, clear, energetic and hopeful.

Mitch Albom is a journalist and writer and brought up in the Jewish faith, whilst not practising himself at the book’s start.  And at the very start of the book he is asked by his old Rabbi, Albert Lewis, to write said Rabbi’s eulogy for the event of his death. The reason for Albert’s request (he’s nicknamed ‘the Reb’) is never made clear, other than the he heard Mitch speak, and that he mentored Mitch as a young man, seeing him through his Bar Mitzvah.  What follows are reflections on a series of interviews between Mitch and the Reb, as Mitch strives to understand his subject better.  In so doing they start a journey exploring the nature of faith and the deepest questions of what it means to be human.

Running parallel to this are a series of chapters exploring the sad history of one Henry Covington, a man raised in the hardest of circumstances, and who has lived a life of crime, violence, tragedy and loss.  Henry will become a Pastor at a Church with a special mission to the homeless of Detroit, wonderfully named “I am my Brother’s Keeper.”  The book tells us how he got there, and what keeps him there, in his struggles with a crumbling Church building, and the growing depression in the streets of Detroit.  We learn how Mitch’s journey will lead him to Pastor Henry’s door, and how the search for God knits together all the stories in this book, across their respective faiths.

The book is clearly and explicitly about hope, particularly the hope that in our days of sectarian and inter-faith strife, there is another, deeper, more excellent way for us to relate to each other.  And the book gives some beautiful examples of what humanity is like at its best, when we reach down to help up the person who has fallen.

A must read if you have any faith or none.  If you are suspicious of faith itself, or of one particular faith and feel hostile to others, then please read this book with an open heart.