Timing is a wonderful thing, some of us have it and some of us don't. It can turn a funny joke into a hilarious one, it can also add an extra depth and poignancy to a great book.
Every once in while an author will show great timing by releasing a book that taps into the current zeitgeist, whether intentionally or unintentionally when this happens it cannot fail to add an extra layer of depth to the book.
Gary McMahon's The End, is one such book. I started to read The End in the shocking aftermath of Robin Williams death. There was a distinct tangible feeling around the globe, it felt as though a light had gone out, and the dark undercurrent of depression slipped closer to the surface of our consciousness . It just felt right to read The End at this point it was almost as though McMahon tapped into the river of darkness that flows through us all .
There is a beautiful melancholia to the opening segment of the book as Gary describes the strange suicide plague that suddenly appears and takes hold over the world. Shocking, chilling and bleak, Gary captures a true sense of loss, despair and hopelessness. You can't helped but be drawn into the story, he cleverly keeps things vague, there is no hint as to why these mass suicides are taking place, while all the time hinting at something much more worse to come.
We are also introduced to the main character, who is down in London for an important meeting that could mean great news for his company. Anxious and agitated not just over the meeting,he has left his blind and pregnant wife at home. So when things really start going to hell, his one and only thought is to get home.
It is at this point that the book makes a clever tonal shift, out goes the beautiful sense of melancholia, to be replaced with a breakneck narrative that sees our everyman hero and his small bunch of companions fight their way through a ruined country looking safety, family and salvation.
One way in which The End excels is how McMahon weaves the two different narrative styles. The story shifts from classic heartfelt and emotionally rich McMahon prose, to end of the world action, and at no point does it feel as if these two styles clash. Those of you who read a lot of apocalyptic fiction may recognise some of the set pieces in the book especially Doctor Thwaite and his compound. Yes we have all scene a paramilitarised compound run by a slightly mad egotistical maniac, and yet these sections don't feel like a rehash of other books.
While this is a story about the end of the world, McMahon cleverly keeps this as a personal story. Told from a first person perspective, the action never strays from the immediate surroundings of our narrator. This adds to the emotional depth of the story, especially the use of the telephone calls between our hero and his wife. These intimate moments ground the story and serve as a respite from all the death and despair.
As for our hero, McMahon wisely veers away from having an all out action hero, this is an everyman who is pushed into extraordinary circumstances. It's hard to talk about his actions without giving away too much of the plot, and more importantly a twist that with leave you reaching for the tissues, suffice to say he does something that will leave you wondering why the hell did he do that? And when the reasons for this are revealed I challenge you not to shed a tear.
It's a pity that this book is more than likely going to lumped into the zombie genre, yes the Leftovers, could be described as zombies, but they exist more as a metaphor for the emotional state of our world than a flesh eating horde. They are not flesh eating monsters, they exists only to destroy us all. Blank templates of those who they once were , filled only with pain and rage.
The End, is a masterful entry in apocalyptic fiction, deeply emotional, beautifully written, and one that is not afraid to wear its influences on its sleeves. A fast paced adventure story with a strong heart, that will leave your emotions battered and bruised.
they were only the beginning... This is
The End A strange suicide plague grips the city of London, tearing apart the fabric of society. To escape this madness, a small group of strangers must journey north in search of safety.
Everyone and everything must eventually come to an End, but in this case it happens quicker and with more savager than anyone could ever have imagined.
When chaos reigns and things start to fall apart, The End might be closer than you think... and sometimes The End is really the beginning of something much worse...
Praise for Gary McMahon
"Gary McMahon's horror is heartfelt, his characters flawed and desperate..."
- Tim Lebbon
"He's one of the darkest- which is to say brightest - new stars in the firmament of horror fiction."
"Gary McMahon seems intent on taking readers through the looking glass and tearing down the walls between the living and the dead. He creates dark, hallucinatory images that burn in your brain forever"
- Christopher Fowler