Number one of THE BLACK ROAD
Snowbooks Ltd / 444 pages / 1 December 2015
You might think that with all of the accolades and success author Simon Bestwick has accumulated over these years that he would have gotten over his shyness, his reticence to toot his own horn. Wrong. Sometimes you have to track him down in Liverpool to wrest a copy of his latest book from his very hands. And run. Sometimes it’s in the middle of a blinding, choking warehouse fire that obscures the horizon, leaving you to run blind, clutching your precious paperback, bouncing off others with streaming eyes.
Totally worth it.
HELL’S DITCH is the epic you always knew Bestwick had inside him; you just had to wait, ravenous, for it to hit the page. Well, it’s here. And just like the characters between the covers its hit the ground running. When you see the landscape that’s all that’s left of Britain (and the rest of the world, you’re left to wonder?) after the War that many of the unfortunates trying just to survive in the ruins are too young to even remember, you will well understand the phrase “running for your life.” Except that many of these people — and some not-quite people — are running for other peoples’ life and to defeat a great evil that threatens to take away what miserable existence they have left.
Enter Helen. Helen Damnation. A proper walking corpse virtual everyone would say. Everyone else in the world who ever heard of Helen believes she is long dead, That might well turn out to be a fatal assumption, because Helen is coming back with a purpose, a laser focus on a single mission. She probably will die carrying out the plan and she will get others killed, but that can’t be helped. She has returned from the grave after five years to gather her astonished allies to follow her on this suicide mission. Along the way, they receive the unexpected and unnerving help of the well-named Gevaudan Shoal, who was once–
You know what? I’ll leave you to discover all there is to know about Gevaudan, although I think there is more to learn down the Black Road.
Fighting on the other side (unless you, too, are a sociopath, but to everyone their hobbies, I guess) is Commander Tereus Winterborn and his loyal Reapers. Reapers trained to eliminate any threat to, well, the Reapers and the high command, and no order too barbaric to carry out with relish. That’s what happens when you stop thinking of the “enemy” as people and start seeing them as animals and scum. Easy to torture and wipe out scum, right. If the Reapers seem a nauseous bunch, wait until you meet Jarrett and her JennyWrens. Throw in the thoroughly delusional Dr. Mordake and his terrifying Project Tindalos and you would think all the sane people would actually be running in the opposite direction and take their chances in the Channel. Or the Atlantic.
I’m not going to kid you: HELL’S DITCH is one tense read. Some of you may want to leave the light on all night. Maybe not read it while you’re eating, or right after you eat. There is loyalty, bravery, self-sacrifice, tenderness, and loss. And some of the best writing on the planet, but you were expecting that if you’ve ever read Bestwick’s work. Aaannnddd, there is also violence, gory imagery, that kind of language, sexuality, and reference to torture. The very thing you don’t want your teenagers reading and the very thing you should buy them…things aren’t looking good for us right now and they might be the ones to make some tough decisions.