Meet heroin addict Jack “Colonel” Jones, one of life’s losers who finds himself as one of few who discover the key to surviving the viral apocalypse. Whilst on the scrounge for his next hit the Colonel stumbles across Jack Cruz, a gun-toting survivalist with supplies up to the eyeballs. Seemingly he’s the answer to any survivor of the apocalypse dreams- and nightmares.
Once safely invited back to Cruz’s bolthole, the weirdness begins to unfold as our junkie protagonist soon begins to suspect that Jack Cruz isn’t all that he pretends to be. As the suspicion thickens, The Colonel comes to the conclusion he’s trapped at the end of the world with a psychopath. This is where it starts to get really interesting.
What follows is 259 pages of an interesting power play between two very damaged characters, whilst they both deal with having lost everyone and everything they ever cared about they still have to deal with each other. The near single setting of a food processing plant in downtown Seattle ramps the tension up to a Hitchcockian level, where The Colonel finds himself fearful of venturing too far from his new home for two reasons; the horrors of what he finds out there and his life dependency on drugs which are all stashed at his new home. The use of drugs as a McGuffin is an interesting concept, in which something that was once considered poison is now a cure. Garrison ingrains this as a powerful point throughout his work; all it takes is for society to turn inside out before we view something as once evil, as something necessary for survival.
Jack Cruz is something of enigma in this book. He’s quiet, though when he speaks, every line means something, he doesn’t just talk, every sentence he utters seems to have some ominous ulterior motive. Garrison builds the mystery up well, stacking up ponderable upon ponderable until your screaming each page over, demanding he reveal his secrets. Once the truth is revealed, you’ll understand why I asked you to think Dark. Jack Cruz is a villain turned up to eleven, even if his actions and habits are sanctioned and seemingly justified by God. He thinks he’s right, and for all intents and purposes, it may well be.
Garrison writes well, even the most terrible moments of the story he writes with such a suave beauty which at first had me so frustrated because writing in first-person through the eyes of a washed up, dead beat junkie, the literary flourish just didn’t add up. But even The Colonel’s talented and admirable prose is thankfully explained, which made me a very happy reader.
Once you pick this book up, I guarantee you’ll to struggle to put it down. It’ll take a house fire to get you to take notice of something else. It has a Catcher in the Rye quality in certain points, where even though nothing is happening; everything is happening.
If you enjoy your apocaliterature, this will be more than you cup of char. If you eat thrillers, by all means jump in, you’ll find the water quite toasty. More downbeat than the The Stand, whilst holding the grim sensibilities of The Road, but with a little more substance over Cormac McCarthy’s sparse style. If Irvine Welsh had brought the end of days upon the characters in Trainspotting, it wouldn’t be too dissimilar to this.
A thoroughly fantastic read; nail biting to the end whilst being tragic and funny, everything that life and death should be about. If this isn’t a classic of the future, then there is something very wrong with the world.