It's the end of the world as we know it ( and I don't mean last nights election results). The world has gone to ruin, an unexplained event has rendered technology useless, cars won't start, electricity no longer works, and the few survivors of the human race are holed up in heavily fortified areas, while the surrounding cities are the domain of "The Commuters". These are changed people, hive-like of mind, not zombies as such; they have no urge to eat of human flesh, but they want the survivors they want to change everyone into a Commuter, devoid of human urges, almost emotionless, they are mere shadows of who they were before the event.
Standing against them is the Kill Crew a band of citizens volunteers who venture out nightly to kill as many of the Commuters as possible, in a bid to secure the longevity of their little haven.
Meanwhile, in the UK, a family is taking a different route to safety, rather than aligning with a group they are striking out alone, believing that safety lies in small numbers away from mass dwellings.
While at first, this may seem like your average "zombie" novel, Joseph D'lacey's The Veil quickly shrugs the cliches of the genre to bring you a unique tale of two parts that takes a look at a shared apocalypse from two very distinct and stylistically different viewpoints.
The Kill Crew is perhaps the most standard of the stories, as it features your typical band of civilian survivors battling against the horde. But rather than focusing on the action, D'Lacey concentrates more on the society that has been built, and in particular the relationship between three of the inhabitants.
Sheri is a fascinating lead character, a hairdresser in her pre-apocalypse world she has now found a new life as one of the most experienced Kill Crew operatives. She finds solace in the hours of hunting, from her fragile state of mind, and her useless partner. And as the story progresses and Sheri is pushed further and further to the pint of breakdown we witness a smart and poignant development of a strong female lead. When she finally breaks and makes a bold move, the reader is so invested in her character that we fully support her decision.
The Kill Crew is an introspective story with a heartbreaking ending, peppered with some heart-stopping action scenes, tightly written and despite a couple of odd choices, such as why the kill crews don't hunt the Commuters during the day, while they are inactive, and why a car suddenly starts to work is still a powerful and rewarding story. One of the strengths of the story is the subtle way in which D'lacey uses the story as a metaphor to the current trend of humanity drive for greed. The stronghold, known as The Station, exists as a perfect example of a socialist state, everyone works for the common good, everyone has to take part in the Kill Crew, either b choice or by a lottery. And if you go scavenging you have to bring back something for the community. While The Commuters all appear to be cut from the suited and booted financial brigade, a right bunch of bankers. D'lacey never labours the point and keeps the social commentary as a subtle undercurrent rather than as a sermon and never allows it to interfere with the narrative drive of the story.
Meanwhile in England, we get a better picture of what has happened, it seems as though the world has been taken over my some sort of semi-sentient fungal spore. That either turns it's victims into mindless Commuters or feeds upon us if we become trapped in its pulsating tendrils. A fate that has fallen the narrator of this second tale.
As he reminisces over what happened to him in the lead up to his imprisonment within the tendrils of a master organism, we are forced to relive his heartbreaking and terrible story. Even though it is revealed that he is not what you would class as a good man, selfish, shifty and driven by his primal urges, we can't help but feel sorry for him. This is a deeply affecting story, improved by using a family unit as the primary focus of the story.
The Veil is a powerful twin set of novellas, emotional, thoughtful, and engaging with a compelling narrative style; they break free from the standard apocalypse / zombie story to deliver a fresh perspective on a genre staple.