Shelter by Dave Hutchinson

I would like to thank Rebellion for an advance copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review

Publisher – Solaris

Price - £7.99 paperback £0.99p kindle eBook

Published – Out Now

The Long Autumn is coming to an end. For almost a century after the coming of the Sisters, the surviving peoples of rainswept England have huddled in small communities and on isolated farms, scavenging the remains of the old society. But now society, of a kind, is beginning to rebuild itself. In Kent, a brutal tyranny is starting to look West. In the Cotswolds, something terrible and only vaguely-glimpsed is happening. And in, a little corner of Berkshire two families are at war with each other. After decades of simply trying to survive, the battle to inherit this brutal new world is beginning.

The 21st century seems to be dominated by unexpected consequences which make things even worse for us. Be it economic depression, western despots and a desire to cut your country off from its largest trade partner the fabric of society has been increasingly worn thin. In this dark and often nasty novel Dave Hutchinson sees the UK struck by a true bolt from the blue fragments of a comet that split up and crashed across the planet. The seas rise, the crops fail; all the lights go out and the governments of the world are soon gone. Flash forward 100 years and your view of the world is probably how far you can get on a horse in a very dangerous world.

The UK is pretty much destroyed in this novel with just a lot of isolated communities living off the land in farms without electricity, access to medicine and increasing illiteracy but compensated the amassment of small arms. People live in communities often walled off and are suspicious of strangers and often their own neighbours. In the small county of the Parish two powerful families have been amassing loyalties from the surrounding areas.  But the head of the Taylor clan gets attacked and knocked unconscious and he is found with the body of a young son of the equally powerful Lyall family.  As there are no witnesses everyone jumps to conclusions and some long-simmering resentments are ready to boil over.

A little further down south in Guz (previously known as Portsmouth) one of the more organised groups on the coast have been increasingly taking a broader view of the world and its threats.  One of which is in that well-known town of bleak despair – Margate. Adam one of their best field agents is sent to investigate and finds cruel enforcers driving people hard to strengthen a despot’s power base. Adam must decide how next to proceed and finds himself straying into the Parish.  Soon both conflicts get even hotter.

This often feels like a tale of the American wild west with family feuds, marauding gangs and small communities run by the strength of the gun rather than reason. But the true horror of the story is that this all feels plausible.  Here is a society that has lost the gloss of civilisation – libraries used for fuel, death by a cut and high infant mortality.  Hutchinson reminds the reader of that phrase that humanity is only a few meals from anarchy. People are paranoid and all are grasping for their own place in the world and the few who appear to want a better world are often punished unwittingly. As the story progresses, we see how this feud wears people’s humanity down and the desire to just kick back and destroy all those you envy or feel slighted by builds and builds. The violence is brutal and unforgiving.

I really liked the concept of the destroyed UK here.  Its very hard not to look at this incredibly insular and impoverished country and not think of what most of us are seeing on the news. Its not simply a tale of family feuds.  There is an intriguing political dimension with Adam and the powers in Guz investigating their potential rivals. Adam is the most interesting character on the group a desire to help communities; a sense of justice but at the same time trained to kill and maim to a level that many in these small towns and villages will be stunned by. He starts off wanting to help but the stupidity of the locals ends up unleashing his own sense of retribution.

If you enjoy the quiet apocalypse stories of John Wyndham, you’ll find this a very enjoyable tale. The destruction by the comet is fascinating but it’s the consequences of such an event on society where the true horror lies. You may find yourself looking at your neighbours and friends around the street and wondering what would happen if the lights went out forever…