Genres: Dark Fiction, Dystopian, Horror
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The following is based on an eARC from one of the authors in exchange for an honest review.
Biters/The Reborn is the first of the DoubleDown series of books from Journalstone publishing that I’ve read, and it’s very safe to say, it won’t be the last.
Both novellas included here are quality stories linked only by the theme of life after two very different versions of the apocalypse. In Harry Shannon’s Biters, slowly evolving zombies have all but over-run the world, leaving only a few pockets of humanity trying to live whatever life they can. Which I admit, sounds extremely pedestrian. But not in the hands of Shannon. Instead of going down the route seasoned horror readers would be expecting, Shannon crafts a crime noir piece that only utilises the zombies as a backdrop to the machinations between the beleaguered hero, the femme fatale and the shady antagonists. Though it takes some time to find its feet, once Biters has established its main character, the rest of the story unfolds wonderfully well. It’s short, sweet, true to the conventions of a noir tale, and packs a punch. I was already satisfied and would have been happy if it became a case of “one out of two ain’t bad…”
Imagine my amazement then when Brett J Talley’s The Reborn raised that bar set by Biters and then pole-vaulted right over it. Without doubt the best piece of fiction (of any genre) I’ve read this year, The Reborn takes a spin on eugenics and links it with a war that destroys much of the world. The story follows the journey of an ex war hero who joins a super secret police force known as The Shepherds. They are tasked with tracking down and killing the unborn babies of mothers on the run when they are marked as future murderers or violent criminals based on a tell tale strand of their DNA. At the same time, Talley effortlessly weaves in the backstory of how this technology came to be, and the resultant war that decimated the human population.
The concept alone is stellar, but the breakneck speed of the narrative, the impressive twists the story takes, and Talley’s obvious skill as a writer, are what truly make this tale of a dystopian future unputdownable.
Fans of apocalyptic, action-based fiction should do themselves a favour and thrust this one right to the top of their TBR pile.
4 Double Crosses for Biters and 5 Life Ending Spikers for The Reborn, averaging out to be a 4.5 star read.