Apocalyptic science fiction generally doesn’t do it for me, these days. I rapidly ran out of any lingering enthusiasm I may have had for the sub-genre halfway through Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake which was slickly accomplished, beautifully written and put the eek! in bleak… So would Grzegorzek’s tale of devastation caused by solar flares keep me reading?
Malcolm King is a journalist living in trendy Hove on the south coast of England. His days are taken up with video meetings and research on the internet while he writes articles for magazines around the world. When a solar flare of unprecedented magnitude hits the Earth, effectively hurling us back to the stone age in a matter of hours, Malc is thrust into a terrifying new world as he travels the length of the country to find his young daughter.
Faced with difficult choices at every turn, Malc draws his strength from those around him; Emily, a tough, no-nonsense soldier with a soft spot for lost causes and Jerry, a disgraced astrophysicist who may be the only person left who understands what’s happening with the sun. With their help, he must struggle to answer the ultimate question. What won’t he do to get his daughter back?
I read this book on a train journey, whisked away from the nuisance seated opposite busy deafening himself and irritating me with the tinny throbbing from his earplugs, by the initial enormity of the disaster that engulfs the South coast. But what actually caught and held me was Grzegorzek’s protagonist, Malc. He is thoroughly believable as an ordinary chap caught up in a series of unthinkable, violent adventures as he is yanked from his everyday existence with a suddenness that snares us into the story faster than you can say aurora borealis. Malc is decently normal, without an ounce of testosterone-driven anything – which I found immensely refreshing and utterly realistic. He’s a magazine journalist – why wouldn’t he vomit at the sight of his first dead bodies? I also enjoyed the fact that his female companion, Emily, is an ex-soldier with the REME. So she is the one who can handle herself when it all kicks off.
In addition to having a believable and appealing protagonist, Grzegorzek is adept at spinning an engrossing tale with plenty of incident. This doesn’t read like a first novel, and when I looked him up, I discovered that he has two other crime novels published with Amazon. So while the early parts of the book were reasonably familiar – once Malc sets off to rescue his daughter, Melody, I found myself right alongside for the ride. Grzegorzek has a knack for delivering interesting, believable characters in a few short sentences and Malc encounters some real slimeballs, along with some remarkable kindness. There are also politicians – guess whereabouts they come on the sliding scale of morality?
Overall, this is an entertaining, well written thriller that bounces along and is yet another demonstration of the strength of talent out there in the Indie market. Any niggles? The formatting is a bit peelie-wallie in places – the new chapters turned up in a different position on the page almost every time. But that is a relatively easy fix and certainly wasn’t going to stop me finding out what happens next. I understand that there is going to be sequel – which I’m certainly going to track down when it comes available. Apocalyptic science fiction is back on my reading list, again, thanks to Flare…