Book Review: The Samaritan by Dave Jeffery

“The A Quiet Apocalypse series has become must-read fiction for horror fans everywhere, one of those stories that deserve to be enjoyed for many generations to come.”

 

The Samaritan by Dave Jeffery - coverAlways an incredibly supportive and generous voice in the online horror community, Dave Jeffery truly took us all by surprise with the creation of the A Quiet Apocalypse universe, where he explored the cruelty and inhuman nature of the human species in the aftermath of a devastating disease. Of course, it is testament to his expertise as a magnificent storyteller that he can create such a terrifying vision, garnering praise as well as comparisons with genre heavyweights The Road and I Am Legend. He is on record as stating he only ever intended for there to be one book in the story (A Quiet Apocalypse, Demain Publishing, 2019) but, such was the overwhelmingly positive reception for the story, a sequel (Cathedral, Demain Publishing, 2019) quickly followed. The praise and inspiration continued and, so, Jeffery duly delivered a third instalment.

As with the previous two entries in the series, Jeffery again offers us a different view of the strange world caused by the MNG-U outbreak. This time our main character is Nathan, an author of children’s books who was on the cusp of success and widespread recognition for the series of books he created with his artist husband, James, as the epidemic hit. As with the majority of the human population, he was robbed of his sense of hearing and, as society quickly crumbled, he was also robbed of his career and, most devastating, his husband. Finding himself at a loss and in need of community, he became a Samaritan for Cathedral, a guardian of Cathedral’s laws and protector of its inhabitants. Even if that included hunting those who still retain their hearing (a commodity in this new, dangerous world) and capturing and punishing “Harbingers”, those who were deaf before the meningitis outbreak, and who are almost universally blamed for carrying the disease.

Jeffery excels with his characterisation, creating an internal narrative through Nathan that encourages the reader to empathise with his plight, providing flashbacks of his troubled upbringing at the hands of an abusive father and his undying love and commitment for his husband. These flashbacks are diligently placed throughout the story, interspersed carefully with the unfolding story to show the reader Nathan’s state of mind and justification for his actions, which are mostly governed by a promise made to his dying husband to go on, to survive, whatever the cost. Not only is the timing of these scenes meticulous, but they perfectly prepare the reader for what is to come, even if the reader may not notice it at the first attempt of reading. A conscientious reader (or anyone who reads the book more than once) will recognise the level of work Jeffery has put in to crafting this story, delivering a truly memorable horror story.

Most of the action takes place beyond Cathedral’s walls, in the wild, lawless landscape of suburban Britain, where Nathan and his small team are on a reconnaissance mission. Team Leader, Snelson, however, has other ideas and wishes to hunt down as many Harbingers as he can, in the hope of bringing one back alive for the barbaric upcoming festival to celebrate the first Samaritan. Thanks to Snelson’s reliance on alcohol, the mission does not go to plan and Nathan is left behind, only to be rescued by a young couple and their daughter, who return him to their farmhouse for rehabilitation. Joseph and Katie, along with their young daughter Lily, have a great deal to fear from Nathan, yet their humanity appears to win through as they house him in a bunker on the farm grounds, while he recovers. Once Nathan realises who his rescuers are, he must overcome his own prejudices in order to fulfil his promise to James.

The interaction between these two opposing sides as the drama unfolds is very well handled, Jeffery using the situation to examine how far we will stretch our prejudices to justify terrible behaviour, and whether or not people are fundamentally good or evil. Jeffery is to be commended, once again, on the prescience of his work—specifically the A Quiet Apocalypse series—whereby he explores humanity and just how cruel or generous we can be. Did Joseph and Katie rescue Nathan out of kindness, or for an ulterior purpose? Will Nathan truly see the error of his ways, the beliefs that have governed his life since the MNG-U outbreak and offered him shelter and community through Cathedral, or does he still see his saviours as the enemy? How far will one man go to keep the promise he made to his dying husband, the love of his life?

Loyalties will be tested, and allegiances will be forged in the name of survival in the terrifying new existence that Jeffery has created. All of the characters will be forced to make tough choices that, thanks to the author’s imagination and masterful understanding of the human condition, will be far from straightforward and will have terrible consequences. An outside threat will force the hands of Nathan and his rescuers, something that Nathan cannot ignore, thanks to his nature. But it leads to an incredibly explosive ending that, while not having an impact on the world at large, will offer insight into the question of just how cruel the world has become. As with much of the preceding story, it is something that becomes more understandable with a reread but, at the time, will shock many readers. But, given all that Nathan has had to endure, in the current timeline and in the flashbacks, his actions become clear, whether readers believe the result to be cruel or merciful.

As with the first two books in the series, we continue to be impressed by Jeffery’s world-building and character development. The dystopian nightmare he has created in the wake of a global epidemic is truly terrifying and, were it not for current events, we would like to believe it were too far-fetched to ever be anything more than imagination. The cruelty and barbarism of human nature is on full display, showing the depths to which we as a species can sink, the extents to which we will go to blame others for our misfortune, and our willingness to follow the prejudicial beliefs of so-called leaders when it seems like the easiest, least painful course of action for ourselves. But, as a counterpoint, there is room for love and compassion the world of the quiet apocalypse; whether it is in the innocence of a child, or the love of a devoted parent. Perhaps there is yet hope for humanity in Jeffery’s series, something we will hopefully find in the fourth book. The A Quiet Apocalypse series has become must-read fiction for horror fans everywhere, one of those stories that deserve to be enjoyed for many generations to come.

THOMAS JOYCE

Publisher: Demain Publishing
eBook: 143 (ps.)
Release Date: 7 July 2021

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