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Review: Biters/The Reborn by Harry Shannon/Brett J Talley

by Brett J Talley, Harry Shannon
Genres: Dark Fiction, Dystopian, Horror
Pages: 228
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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.

About Brett J Talley

A native of the South, Brett Talley received a philosophy and history degree from the University of Alabama before moving to witch-haunted Massachusetts to attend Harvard Law School. When people ask, Brett tells them he writes for fortune and glory. But the truth is the stories in his head simply refuse to stay put. Brett loves every kind of fiction—from horror to literary to historical to sci-fi—as long as there are fantastic characters with a compelling purpose. There’s still magic to be found in fiction, the mysterious and the unknown still beckon there, and the light can always triumph over the darkness, no matter how black the night may be.

Brett writes when he can, though he spends most of his time working as a lawyer so that he can put food on the table. That is, until the air grows cool and crisp and fall descends. For then it is football time in the South, and Brett lives and dies with the Alabama Crimson Tide. Roll Tide.

About Harry Shannon

Like most authors, I’ve kicked around a lot. I’ve been an actor, a singer, an Emmy-nominated songwriter, a recording artist in Europe, a music publisher, a VP of Carolco Pictures and worked as a free-lance Music Supervisor on films such as ‘Basic Instinct’ and ‘Universal Soldier.’ I’m currently a counselor in private practice.
For the curious, I’ve twice been nominated for the Stoker Award by the Horror Writer’s Association, once for my collection A HOST OF SHADOWS, and for short fiction. I’ve won the Tombstone and the Black Quill once each, and my short story FIFTY MINUTES, co-written with Joe Donnelly, was recently chosen for inclusion in the prestigious anthology Best American Mysteries of 2011. I’m on the list of Major Horror Authors of the Twenty-First Century in Readers’ Advisory Guide to Horror, 2nd Edition, from the American Library Association. You can find me on Facebook or Twitter. I’d love to hear from you.

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