Hugh Howey. In the Woods. (The End Has Come, 2015)

theendhascomeSometimes I read a story and all the way through I feel I’ve missed something important, or need to be reading it from a slightly different perspective. Sometimes there’s a WTF feeling throughout, and sometimes even a SWTF.

So as you might guess, co-editor Howey’s final instalment of his trilogy of stories in ‘The Apocalypse Triptych’ engendered these feelings.

So, the problems for me were many and varied. Firstly, the opening, in which two characters from a previous instalment appear to be waking out of a half-millennia spell in suspended animation, but having spent that time naked in a small metal box, with only one intravenous feed, and a catheter, and getting out feeling just a bit thirsty and creaky. And there’s some slightly creaky premise to have them release a store of clothes, food and water, and then they are instantly set up on by some crazy wild humans but they deal with them and read a message from said long dead sister and resolve to trek across the country to gain revenge on the descendants of those who caused the apocalypse, and then there are some other scenes with other POV characters, and evidently some time has passed, and then there’s a meeting and things are discussed, and then quickly the revenge on the descendants of those who caused the apocalypse is attempted (or a small representative sample of them), and there’s a shift in POV, and the story ends. (For the story does indeed read a little breathless – Stephen King would have squeezed 1500 pages out of this plot, rather than compress it into a dozen or so pages.)

Fortunately, Google is on hand. And with the limited amount of time I was willing to spend researching this I found an online interview with Howey, which explained a bit, in that some of the characters were from a trilogy of books he has written (‘The Wool Trilogy’), so the meetup in the woods would make sense to Howey and those who had read his books. (For the record I wasn’t aware of the books, and hadn’t actually heard of Hugh Howey!)

But somewhat bizarrely, there’s mention in the interview of whether Howey conducted any additional research into suspended animation/hibernation, which would make sense if the story featured a lot of description of this worked, but as I mentioned earlier, the couple appear from what sounds like a tin box for storing garbage bins, and have just one line in and one line out of their bodies.

And in the interview Howey mentions the stories addressing issues of misplaced blame, which is indeed a good idea. But in this case two characters get out of 500 years of hibernation, and then head off to kill the descendants of the people who caused the Apocalypse, in a world where the few survivors need to work together?? It just doesn’t make sense!

Maybe just a case of trying to squeeze in too much, and perhaps an issue when one of the co-editors writes a story for the anthology – he isn’t going to send his story back for some rewrites, and it would take a lot of cojones for the other co-editor to do that!

Well, that’s got that off my chest. If I really am missing something, do let me know!

I do note the praises being sung for the Wool Trilogy in that above link, especially the UK ‘newspaper’ The Daily Express saying : “Thrilling, thought-provoking and memorable … one of dystopian fiction’s masterpieces alongside the likes of 1984 and Brave New World.” Was the book really that good?? Or is it one of those quotes where the … in the middle excises a key phrase and it was originally “Thrilling, thought-provoking and memorable this book is not, and will not be seen as one of dystopian fiction’s masterpieces alongside the likes of 1984 and Brave New World.” Although I see from the Daily Express that the original self-published story ended up being published by the same publisher as ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’, so maybe the story and the author divides opinion like EL James ;-)

health warning : please note this review contains a British Sense of Humour, including Irony, and should be avoided by people who have an intolerance to these ingredients

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