TPG’s Tasters – Apocalypse Weird: The Red King, by Nick Cole (WYRD, book 1)
Taster time, again! Today, I’ll be digging into The Red King by Nick Cole, the first book of a particularly interesting collaborative project. The Red King is the first of the Apocalypse Weird series, a shared universe set to involve twenty independent authors. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this series deals with an apocalypse scenario…and a distinctly odd apocalypse scenario, with absolutely everything (zombies, giant monsters, viruses etc) thrown into a blender. Pretty cool, no?
Oh, and The Red King just so happens to be free as of writing. So there’s that, too.
In any case, here’s the cover:
Red king? Check. Weird? Um, kinda.
We’re off to a good start here: the art is striking, and the whole cover is very well put together. The whole thing has a vaguely comic-like look to it, and I fully expect to read much over-the-top goings on within this book’s pages.
That said: tone-wise, I’m not particularly sure what to expect just yet. The artwork looks very gritty and serious to me, but that font…doesn’t, somehow. I’m not particularly sure why I’m thinking that, but there you have it.
Also, random question: is the name of this series “WYRD” or “Apocalypse Weird?’ Because right now, I honestly have no idea. I guess that’s weird, too.
Anyway, the blurb.
The end of the world is only the beginning as an odd band of survivors pull together to construct a modern-day castle amid the burning ruins of suburbia lost. As undead hordes and strange otherworldly monsters ravage what’s left of civilization, things begin to go from worse to weird as each survivor’s dark past unfolds, revealing that reality might be more than anyone ever thought, and that an ancient force from the outer dark has finally arrived to conquer. Stephen King’s The Stand meets Lost in an epic confrontation between good and evil that spans history, time, and space. The Red King is the first full story to be released in the wild world of Apocalypse Weird, and it is book one of the Apocalypse Weird – WYRD arc by Nick Cole.
Well, I guess that’s my question answered, then!
In any case, I’m liking what I’m seeing here. The impression I get from this blurb is that of a partcularly OTT post-apocalyptic novel – the same impression I got from the cover, in other words, which is always a good sign. Played completely straight, it could easily fall flat – “an ancient force from the outer dark” sounds about as cliched as can be – but somehow I just can’t see this book going down that route.
But will the sample match my expectation? Let’s find out!
I was feeling pretty optimistic when I started this one. The sheer scale of the intended project was impressive, and I’d seen nothing so far to suggest that it wouldn’t be pulled off well.
I began to read
We are introduced to The Raggedy Man – and old man dressed in loose-fitting, faced clothes. He sets up a chessboard, waiting for someone to approach him and play; eventually, someone does. This “someone” is a large man – wide and muscular – with a broad and friendly smile. The Raggedy Man refers to him only as the Opponent.
So far, the writing seems solid, and the atmosphere seems suitably mysterious. It also looks as though this might be being played totally straight, which wasn’t what I expected. Nonetheless, things were still looking good.
The next chapter begins and we are introduced to new character, Holiday, and his struggle with alcoholism. Holiday, we learn, is stuck in a dead-end job, with no close friends and having just split up with his girlfriend – in other words, your stereotypical loser.
That’s the end of the chapter. The next chapter…also focussed on Holiday, as he embarks on a binge of booze and cigarettes. He goes to a shop, goes home, passes out in front of Forest Gump and then drunkenly dreams of fighting in Vietnam.
I was rather surprised by all this. Sure, it all seemed well-written, but it wasn’t at all what I was expecting. I could only assume that the book is going for something akin to Shaun of the Dead, where the loser rises to occasion and turns his life around in the process.
But it was certainly taking its time to get moving.
The next and final chapter of the sample was what rescued the read-through for me – and purely due to the writing on display:
Yep. Present tense. And particularly good use of present tense, at that. I don’t tend to see that much in the books I read, so it’s great to see it here. Of course, we’re now on chapter three with still no sign of an apocalypse or, indeed, any weird goings on. But at least stuff seems to be happening.
The sample ended soon after, and I was left feeling somewhat on the fence. The writing is engaging on the whole, and the opening particularly solid, but once again I seemed to have a book where things were moving very slowly. Not as slowly as last time, admittedly, but still slowly.
I checked the reviews; apparently, Holiday realises he missed something major (IE: the apocalypse) soon after, meaning that the sample cut off at a particularly bad place. I’d now be interested to know who decides where the sample stops: the author/publisher, or Amazon? If anyone knows, please say down below, because I’m genuinely interested.
Did I Download It?
This one took a bit of thought – more than they usually do, at any rate. Ultimately, I did download it. I really want to see now how this book plays out – and if it turns out to be good, then I’m keen to follow the wider project as well. Plus, the book is free; that helped my decision along as well.
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