The Afterblight Chronicles by Various Authors [Bane of Kings]
Bane of Kings reviews an omnibus of Afterblight Chronicles Novels, published by Abaddon Books and containing the novels The Culled by Simon Spurrier, Kill or Cure by Rebecca Levene and Death Got No Mercy by Al Ewing.
“Awesome, post apocalyptic stuff that will have you reading right the way through.” ~The Founding Fields
If you’re expecting a review from someone who has read a lot of post-apocalyptic novels, then you might want to look away now, for the only experience of the post-apocalyptic genre that I’ve had is the Will Smith film I am Legend and possibly the Gone series by Michael Grant for young adults if that counts at all.
I’m aware that there is a whole host of post-apocalyptic novels that a sci-fi fan like me should have probably read by now, such as The Road by Cormac McCarthy, The Stand by Stephen King, The Reapers are Angels by Alden Bell and other such novels. However, I’ve been more focused on the worlds of Warhammer 40,000 when reading science fiction, but I guess the sub-genre should defiantly be worth a look into.
And so it was that I delved into The Culled, by Simon Spurrier, the author of the Warhammer 40,000 novel Lord of the Night, which I understand is quite popular amongst those who have read it. (I haven’t), knowing little about the novel other than who wrote it, the sub-genre that it was in, and the blurb on the back of the Omnibus went something like this:
“Even before the plague, he was a weapon, cold and brutal; and the Cull took away his one shot at regaining his humanity. Now, deep in the squalor of London, he receives a signal, and a flicker of hope. But the source of the signal is half a world away and he must fight gangs, collectors, and the powerful Church of the New Dawn to get there.”
Before I continue, I should mention that the Cull is the plague, a killer virus that spared only those with one rare blood type, and wiped out approximately 93% of the world’s population, leaving only a meagre 7%.
I’ve read plenty of action-packed novels, after all – I am a fan of the Warhammer 40,000 Universe, but if I must say, I’ve never really read that many novels that are as brutal, and as action-packed as The Culled makes out to be. It is a white-knuckled ride following a protagonist whose name we never learn, and his various adventures from London to America, and introduces a post-apocalyptic New York to the readers, overrun by rival gangs, the mysterious, power-hungry Church of the New Dawn and child-hunters, and paints a very dark future for humanity.
Told entirely in first person, The Culled is a strong opener from Spurrier, and the series as a whole. Depending on how many brutal, action-packed books that you have read in the past, you may find yourself completely unprepared for what Spurrier has unleashed upon the reader.
Spurrier seems to take the nameless character and put him in as many horrendous situations as possible, and enjoys the task greatly, and as a result, we find the book to be much more gripping and enthralling than it would’ve been otherwise.
Second in the Omnibus is the novel Kill or Cure, written by Rebecca Levene, and acts as a ‘not-quite a follow-up’ to The Culled, and expands fantastically on the world that Spurrier has created in the previous novel. Still told in first person and the transfer to a female lead character helps create a change of pace, and this is exactly what you need after devouring all the action written in The Culled.
This particular novel follows the adventures of Jasmine, who has spend five years trapped in a secret bunker, with only the dead for company – which is enough to drive anybody mad. However, Jasmine’s crazier than most, after all – she has survived the Cull. However, the cure that she has used is worse, leaving her with a voice that tells her to do awful things.
Now, after being rescued by the rulers of the New Caribbean, it looks like a second plague is rising, and its Jasmine’s job to investigate it.
Levene has managed to interlink the two stories by putting Jasmine across as a partner of the lead character (I wouldn’t say hero), in The Culled, and is an interesting character that is certainly different from most. The author has managed to combine plenty of plot-twists in a world where if you have a gun, it means law – and Jasmine’s not afraid to use one. The many turns that this novel will take you in makes the ending unpredictable, and an instalment in the Afterblight chronicles that should not be missed.
I also enjoyed the Magnificent Seven reference in this novel, as this is probably my favourite Western movie, and it did have me smiling for a couple of pages afterwards.
I should point out that this is probably my favourite book in the Omnibus before we continue, with Death Got No Mercy, by Al Ewing.
Al Ewing is the only author whose work I’ve before, and I’ve read his Gods of Manhattan pretty recently, and I’m pleased to say that I enjoyed both that one and this one as well. If you look to the left, you’ll find the cover art for this novel, and it’s one that had me hooked before I even read it, I mean come on, I didn’t particularly like the artwork but yet – I knew this would be the book for me.
And what a book Death Got No Mercy was! It’s the third book in the Omnibus and the only one told in third person, focusing on the main character, who is on the front of that cover there, and is called Cade. He doesn’t exactly care about people, “But if someone he almost cared about was in trouble, he’d help if he could. If that meant taking on religious maniacs, suited cannibals and hippies who dealt out free love and fast death… well, I’m kind of runnin’ my mouth here. This ain’t a peaceful story and Cade…
Cade wasn’t a peaceful man.”
And so decreed the blurb on the back of the omnibus.
And so, it was. Death Got No Mercy grabbed me right from the start, and it was the Afterblight novel that I’d been most looking forward to after I read the introduction by Jonathan Oliver, the editor-in-chief at Abaddon (as of 2010), which mentioned that the initial pitch of the novel was “A Man goes to San Francisco and kills everybody,” and is easily the most violent and brutal in the Omnibus.
Even though Death Got No Mercy veers slightly off into comic-book territory, as did the first novel, The Culled, which is probably justified by the fact that both authors, Spurrier and Ewing, worked on 2000AD, it is nonetheless an enjoyable pulp-fiction read despite Cade being a rather 2D character.
The Culled Verdict: 3/5
Kill or Cure Verdict: 3.5/5
Death Got No Mercy Verdict: 3/5
Overall Verdict: 3.5/5
More Afterblight Chronicles: The Culled by Simon Spurrier, Kill or Cure by Rebecca Levene, School’s Out by Scott Andrews, Dawn over Doomsday by Jasper Bark, Arrowhead by Paul Kane, Operation Motherland by Scott Andrews, Death Got No Mercy by Al Ewing, Broken Arrow by Paul Kane, Children’s Crusade by Scott Andrews, Arrowland by Paul Kane