April 5, 2012

Filthy Book Review - Flu

Flu (2010) by Wayne Simmons

Review by Jude Felton

It quite often takes me forever to get around to reading a novel, for no other reason than I just can’t always find the time. When I read I like to settle in for at least an hour and devour the book. So, when I do actually get around to reading a book it doesn’t usually take me very long. Point in case is author Wayne Simmons second novel Flu; I started it on a Monday and had it finished by Wednesday, and that was on down time at my paying job!

To show how far behind I am in reading, Flu already has a sequel published, entitled Fever, and it was with this in mind as I read Flu. However the story panned out, whoever survived or who didn’t, I did, at the back of my mind, know that there was more to come. Now, I don’t know the plot of Fever, in fact I know nothing aside from the fact it is the sequel, and that is through choice as I don’t want to spoil it for myself.

I had previously read Simmons debut novel Drop Dead Gorgeous, which is quite terrific. It’s a rough and ready novel written by an author finding his feet, so to speak. Pick it up and give it a read, you will blast through it. With Flu though Simmons has not only found his feet, he is dancing a wee merry jig with them. Flu flows from start to finish, and has everything you might hope for in an apocalyptic style novel. The setting is Northern Ireland, Belfast for the most part, and tells the tale of a particularly nasty strain of flu which has swept through the troubled country. Highly infectious, and ultimately fatal, this strain of flu really makes its victim suffer. The powers that be do their best to contain it, and quarantine the victims where they can, but things get really nasty when those that are infected and die start to come back from the dead.

The plot of flu follows several groups of survivors as they try to do the best they can to come to terms with what is happening in their world. They don’t necessarily have a master plan; there is no great sanctuary to head to, it is just a case of survival.

What Simmons has done with Flu is he has taken a fairly familiar theme, this is basically a variation on the zombie outbreak story, and given it his own grand twist. Don’t get too attached to the characters as you never know who is going to live or die, and he is not afraid to kill off a character before you really get to know anything about them.

It is the writing style here that really makes Flu a winner though. I can only imagine how this will be further developed with the aforementioned Fever, and Drop Dead Gorgeous sequel Doll Parts, as his style is just wonderful. I will admit to having conversed many times with Wayne, from way before DDG was released, and he always had a wonderful way with the English language. Flu is infused with delightful descriptions and totally naturalistic conversations, once again bringing Belfast kicking and screaming to life (or death). He makes good use of Northern Ireland’s troubled history and uses this to add further authenticity to characters, motives and dialogue. This is horror fiction at its most honest, aside from the fact that the dead come back to life; this is a story about life and death, and those we meet along the way.

What about the horror though? Oh yes, it is there on just about every page. I wouldn’t say that Flu is necessarily scary, but the situation is. It is gruesome, with plenty of claret and guts on display, although I found the impending dread and sense of futility being where the story works so well. The multitude of plot strands do all come together and the novel does work very well as a stand-alone book. Such is the craft of the final few chapters, which do get quite emotional, that there is plenty of scope to take the story in numerous directions.

The writing in Flu is a giant step forward by Simmons, in fact a giant step in a well-worn pair of DM’s, stomping its own identity in a crowded sub-genre of horror. Vicious, funny, charming and disturbing, I recommend you not only buy this book, but buy Fever at the same time, because you are going to want to read it as soon as you finish Flu.

Flu is published by Snow Books.

No comments: