This time of year is full of calm and quiet. Silent nights, peace and good will.
Sometimes, though, you just get a hankering for a good, post apocalyptic horror story, though, right? I mean, you can only have so much good will towards men… you gotta have a little chaos thrown in here and there. And if you like your post apocalyptic stories suspenseful, action packed and gory, then do I have the tale for you!
Ten year old Megan doesn’t have any memories from before the troubles began, before the world was full of howlers and gimps and biters, or worse. Her parents would tell her stories of the before times, when they lived in a house and didn’t have to keep on the move, looking for safety. Her mother and father were her whole world – until her mother took sick and died by the side of the road, and her father disappeared after they came upon a settlement that they were hoping would turn into a sanctuary. Instead, it turned into hell full of cruel men who did unspeakable things, men who Megan names Bloodboots and Scarface, because that’s how she sees them. Men who mean her harm.
But Megan has a savior – a man she calls Blueeyes. He was a prisoner of Bloodboots, too, but engineered the release of a cache of penned up howlers who then turned on their captors, unleashing chaos in the compound and allowing Blueeyes and Megan a head start in an escape that turns into a relentless game of cat and mouse. On the run, always in danger of an attack by mindless howlers or relentless gimps, the unlikely pair search for a glimmer of elusive safety. Blueeyes is eerily adept at survival, and teaches Megan the basics of how to use a knife for self defense, the best way to elude a howler attack, and the mechanics of a bow and arrow. Megan discovers that she’s mighty handy with a bow, something that gives her a needed sense of pride and purpose.
I didn’t drop the next arrow. My bowstring didn’t slip. My hands didn’t shake. Again, I squared my shoulders. Again, I inhaled and held. When I felt the wind on the back of my neck I listened, really listened, afforded myself the fraction of a second necessary. It tussled my hair, tossed it across my eyes and back again. It moved over the tips of my fingers, into my hands and along my arms, and steadied my muscles. My eyes narrowed, gaze settling on a single head among the masses, wispy dark hair moving the same as mine. When Oneleg moved, so did my arms, anticipating. Suddenly they didn’t seem so far away. They were close, so close I could touch them. It was Oneleg’s hair on my face, not mine.
When I exhaled, I fired.
She names her bow Pointycrunch. Where she points, “he” crunches, no questions asked. She needs something that absolute in her life, because pretty much everything else is uncertain and full of danger.
It doesn’t take long for Megan to realize that Blueeyes is more than just good at what he does; he seems to border on the edge of superhuman. Not that she’d ever learn much from him about his personal history or where he came from – the man is the pure definition of taciturn. But there are times – more than once – that they are outnumbered, outgunned, out-maneuvered, but somehow he is able to clear the room and make it out alive. It’s more than just luck, or skill, or cussedness; no, there is something different about this man, something that he’s keeping mighty close to his vest. But what it might be, and just why he is so hell bent on keeping her alive and safe is a real mystery to Megan; but then, she’s not pushing too hard. She knows she would have been dead many times over if it weren’t for Blueeyes.
Not that anything in this crazy world stays dead for too long…
Author Steven Novak has taken the crowded post-apocalyptic horror genre and built a tense, relentless, white-knuckles gorefest of a tale that nevertheless manages to feel original. The world in his book is not for the faint of heart (or weak of stomach), but that very visceral quality makes the few tender moments that do occur stick out with utter poignancy. Because the world is so dangerous, we can sometimes forget that Megan is only ten years old; when a reminder comes of just how young she is and how much she has missed out on, it cuts to the bone.
It also keeps you turning pages, frantically and fearfully… in a very heart-thumping way.
So if you need a break from all the feel-good sentiments of the holiday season, pick up a copy of Megan. One thing is for sure – reading this book will have you giving thanks for your dull, safe, wonderful life long before you reach the final page.