Zombies, zombies, zombies, no matter how hard I try I just can't seem to escape from their relentless pursuit. I swear that I will stop reviewing these books every time I review one. So why do I continually come back to these books? It is rather simple, when the man who gave us brilliant existentialist horror with The Respectable Face of Tyranny, and Emergence and Mythos busting horror with Conjure House decides to tackle the shambling dead you better sit up and take notice.
Gary Fry is an author who always brings some new and unique to the genre. He's not content to just sit back and knock out the same old cliches, so the thought of him tackling the most cliched of all horror genres is a prospect that should make for a very good read.
Severed's initial narrative strand, to many, may appear to be be just another run of your mill big bad virus is unleashed that turns people in violent undead killing machines whose sole drive to is kill all surviving humans. However, scratch beneath the surface and you will see that this is no mere zombie novel, Severed like the majority of Gary's work is a novel that is full of brilliant philosophical insights into the nature of humanity, life and death.
Instead of having just reanimated corpses, Gary makes an imaginative twist by having the virus strip the bodies of their souls, it is this that turns us from normal sane humans bound by thousands of years of societal restraint, into psychotic animalistic monsters driven on by our most basic of needs.
By doing this Fry has given the narrative an extra edge, it allows him to explore some weighty concepts like the nature of our humanity. It lifts the story to a level that many other zombie stories could only dream of reaching. Don't worry though this isn't just one long thesis on what makes us, there is enough action and horror to satisfy the needs of any genre fan. There are some excellent set pieces such as the bombing of a major London landmark, and the images and emotions that Fry stirs up in the reader via the large halos in the sky are truly chilling.
Where Fry has always excelled is in the use of his characters, they have always been well developed and never suffered from being mere literary ciphers. In Severed Fry has created probably one of his greatest characters in Stephen Hobbs. A man so flawed and full of his own importance that he walks the line between that of a heroic leading man and the novel's most hated character like the professional tightrope walker. Fry uses this ambiguity perfectly, I particularly enjoyed the way at which insights into Hobbes psych were dropped throughout his story arc and how some of these traits were essential for the climax of the book.
Severed is one of those rare stories that bridges the the more traditional action based horror story and the more philosophical horror story, while it is full of Fry's trademark musings on humanity Severed is probably his most accessible work to date. With Severed Fry has taken the zombie genre o a new level, this is a brilliant book that shakes up a genre that has in recent years been happy to settle with mediocrity.
When an unknown virus is unleashed on London, it turns everyone in its path into violent, zombie-like killing machines, leaving their souls separated and floating away to form a giant halo above the capital. Flesh and spirit, dead and alive, they are both. They are severed.
As a beleaguered government brings in scientists to work on an antidote, the problems become even more complex. The virus spreads. The mayhem grows. There's no solution in sight and time is running out.
Enter Stephen Hobbs, a hard-drinking, womanizing academic with a violent past of his own. Due to his special skill set and experience, he is enlisted to figure out what the virus is and how to stop it. Despite his own demons, Hobbs may very well be humanity's last chance to survive becoming…SEVERED.