Tim Lebbon is a new author to me, I was offered his book by The Daily Bookworm a really great resource if you like free or low priced books, finding out about authors via interviews and trying something different!
One of the previous reviews for this book commented on its “tried, tested and tired” set up, but essentially aren’t all stories just that, what makes them stand out is the writing, the settings, the characters and the odd twist.
I think TL managed this. He is also a master at human observation, the little details and nuances about a personality. Despite all his characters having very scanty to no background he made me care about them, want to know more; it was beguiling.
One simple line at the very start made me realise I was going to really enjoy this author’s work: we could not leave Boris lying dead in the snow. Apply whatever levels of civilisation, foolish custom or superiority complex you like, it just wasn't done.
After the first dead body shows up this hodgepodge group of survivors begin to show cracks, then as the second of them is found punctured to death by “something” the paranoia really ramps up.
How each character copes with it is the fundamental element of the story and TL is very adept at keeping them very separate characters. He picks at human nature in a very precise way, showing up with the flaws and bringing out the annoying habits that would soon grate.
A very brief paragraph gives the minimal information as to how this motely group came together and why. The world is going to Ruin as nuclear reactors have been melting down, it is obvious in the comments from the group that humankind has become more of a cancerous plague upon the planet and the speculation is that Earth, God, Nature, take your pick is fighting back, with devastating consequences.
At times this was more like a good murder mystery with a gore/horror flavor but this novella kept me rapt for the 3+ hours. There is a wonderful element of dark humour; mutant badgers and hedgehogs gone bad… really made me giggle.
As each continuing death ratcheted up the tension, TL introduces new nuggets of the mystery to keep you guessing at who or what is doing the killing. Allowing the tension to show through his characters, where you are privy to little secrets about certain members.
The narrator is never given a name, we only know him through the grief of his wife, taken early in the Ruin and his constant commentary on the situation; he does appear to be losing a few cogs of sanity though, which is interesting to observe.
The ending was a big disappointment to me until I thought about it for a few hours. Like a locked room mystery you never fully understand what is going on. I usually like all my horrors to have had faces, names, and a reason. But I enjoyed this “drop of a cliff” ending because of the story. It has left me feeling more spooked than an explanation. A true shiver down the spine.
Unusually I found not one single grammatical error.