Post apocolyptic reads

(260 Posts)
BlingLoving Tue 24-Apr-12 09:38:20

I love a good post apocolyptic/sci fi read but find it's quite hard to find them so I'm looking for inspiration please from all of you. To give you an idea of what I like I recently read and enjoyed the Hunger Games trilogy. Going further back, I love almost everything John Wyndham ever wrote, but The Day of the Triffids and The Chrysalids are my favourite.

My Kindle is charged and I am ready to download...!

R2PeePoo Tue 24-Apr-12 10:21:00

Rot and Ruin (and the sequel Dust and Decay) by Jonathan Maberry is one I just enjoyed. Set 14 years in the future after a zombie outbreak it is very well written and to an extent subverts the whole zombie genre. Lots of excitement and the bad guys aren't the zombies. One of the best 'after the catastrophe' books I have read.

Alas Babylon by David Brin
Swan Song by McCammon
On the Beach by Nevil Shute
The Postman by David Brin
Earth Abides by Stewart
Meat by Joseph D'Lacey
World War Z by Max Brooks
Afterlight by Alex Scarrow
Cell by Stephen King
The Stand by Stephen King
Lucifer's Hammer by Niven
Plague War by Jeff Carlson (two more in the trilogy-very good)

The Forest of Hands and Teeth is one that is on my list to read too.

My favourite genre (I like Wyndham too)

CrunchyFrog Tue 24-Apr-12 10:30:04

The Handmaids Tale is great, although kind of disturbing.

Children of Men (PD James)

David Gemmell did a trilogy that starts with Wolf in Shadow I think, it's good but very genre.

BlingLoving Tue 24-Apr-12 11:23:25

Thanks both. This is excellent. I'll get Kindling (is that a word yet?).

I've read a few of these: On the Beach is one that's always stayed with me. It's so simple and yet so moving. Or maybe that's just me. I reread it a few years ago as well as A Town Called Alice (different genre, but just as compelling). He's such a low key writer but somehow so evocative? I think I've read Swan Song but can't remember. And yes, I've read the Handmaiden's Tale is good although, like so many of Margaret Attwood's books, I started to get bored towards the end. What is it about her?

MsWeatherwax Tue 24-Apr-12 11:49:52

You might like Mira Grant's Feed - political thriller set after the zombie apocalypse, very addictive read.

CrunchyFrog Tue 24-Apr-12 12:36:34

Oh, I quite enjoyed the Ben Elton one, Blind Faith. Don't normally like his stuff, but that was a good one. smile

jeee Tue 24-Apr-12 12:37:46

John Christopher? I think you can get The Death of Grass on the kindle. Other than that you'd have to go second hand.

SomethingOriginal Tue 24-Apr-12 12:40:10

Theres a series by Faith Hunter (Rogue Mage Series) which is after the End of Days

Which is lighter reading than it sounds! With sexy angel types included if that's your bag smile

R2PeePoo Tue 24-Apr-12 12:46:42

Oh I also loved Allison Hewitt is Trapped by Madeleine Roux. Super,fast-paced action with an excellent book loving heroine. Written in a blog style format. There is a follow up too -Sadie walker is stranded but I haven't read that one yet.

In the young adult genre I though these were excellent too.

-The fear; the enemy; The Dead -trilogy by Charlie Higson
-Unwind by Neil Shusterman
-Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness (four books)
-Divergent by Roth
-City of Ember by DuPrau

R2PeePoo Tue 24-Apr-12 12:47:24


SwimmingWithBowLeggedWomen Tue 24-Apr-12 12:48:24

I got reminded the other day of 2 of my favourite books as a child, both post-apocalyptic. Children of the Dust, which is set immediately after a nuclear war, and Empty World, which is set during and after a disease wipes out most of the world. Possibly a bit childish - haven't read them for years - but I loved them (weird child emoticon)

There's a sequel to Afterlight but I forgot what it's called (or maybe Afterlight is the sequel and it's a prequel even)
There's Into the Forest, that's good, and A Gift Upon the Shore - both have female protagonists.
Plague 99 and the two sequels by Jean Ure are good, they're more aimed at teens but still good. Brother in the Land is another teen one that's good, it's by Robert Swindells - most of his stuff is good, but some are for children rather than teens.
HM Hoover is another good author for teen dytopian stuff if you can find them.
The only one of John Christopher's I didn't like was The Pendulum Swings, all his others are great.
The Road is ok, I didn't think it lived up to the hype it got, but it wasn't the worst thing I've ever read grin

Takver Wed 25-Apr-12 20:16:56

Riddley Walker - but be prepared, its written in its own 'post apocalyptic' language. However stick with it for a bit & it is really worth the effort.

My absolute no. 1 post apocalyptic read is actually a short story - Solitude - from the collection The Birthday of the World, by Ursula le Guin. (The rest of the stories are also excellent, but not post apocalyptic!)

Should you be inclined to try it, The Book of Dave by Will Self is absolute bollox, IMVHO.

'The Stand' is the masterpiece of this genre imho. "Cell' is similar but nowehere near as good (like eating plastic instead of parmesan).

'On The Beach' and 'The Handmaid's Tale' both well worth reading. Agree re Margaret Atwood and crap endings though.

Yes to Patrick Ness - if you don't mind teen fiction try the Mortal Engines series by Philip Reeve too.

Mira Grant's two zombie books are trash - but fun trash!

'The Road' v v pale imitation of 'The Stand' imho.

"Riddley Walker' didn't do it for me - I liked the challenge but not the plot/themes.

Metro 2033 by dmitri glukovski (spelling?)

Awesome book set in the Moscow metro system after a nuclear war.

BlingLoving Thu 26-Apr-12 12:26:39

thanks again. I've loaded a whole lot into my wish list and will start working my way through them.

Fluffymonster Thu 26-Apr-12 12:51:04

The Passage - by Justin Cronin

Tancub Thu 26-Apr-12 19:09:14

Yes! I love post apocalyptic books.

Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban is brilliant, even better second time round. Country of Last Things (I think) by Paul Auster. I've heard The Road by Cormac McCarthy is good - I bought it for my DH but haven't read it meself. Oh and Children of Men is interesting...

Sorry, not much new there!

wintersnight Thu 26-Apr-12 19:20:25

I enjoyed Oryx and Crake by Atwood. ACnd at's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegurt. All of JG Ballard seems pretty post apocalyptic to me (and he's one of my favourite writers) but The Drowned World is probably the purest example.

SandraSue Fri 27-Apr-12 21:52:38

I just finished reading the first two books in a trilogy by the creator of Pans Labyrinth, called The Strain and then The Fall. The third one's called The Night Eternal or something along those lines. They're not quite post-apocalyptic, but then again they are.

In The Strain, an airplane loses contact with the radio tower shortly after being told it's okay for them to land at JFK. 6 minutes after landing, someone is sent out to see what's happening, as the plane is at a standstill as if it'd been in a hangar for a day, all the blinds are pulled down and no radio contact is possible.
insert lots of spoilers here
A vampiric-virus is set lose that devours New York within a few weeks and threatens to take over the world.
The books follow Ephiram Goodweather, who works at the CDC, a Holocaust survivor, a Mexican Gang member and an exterminator as they deal with what's happening and try to figure out what the hell they're going to do so they don't become infected themselves.

I wont explain anything about The Fall, but it's also very good, and they follow on from each other like Lord of the Rings rather than being a book and two sequels.

These books are some of the best books I've read in a long while and although the first one is better than the second (which is almost always the case) the second one is still amazing enough to have you just as hooked as the first. I bought both books on a Sunday evening, and by the following Wednesday I'd read both! they're pretty cheap on Amazon too, or at least they were last time I checked.

bran Fri 27-Apr-12 21:58:32

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

misslinnet Fri 27-Apr-12 22:56:14

I'm currently reading Metro 2033 by Dmitry Glukovsky.

Other ones that I liked included:

Nevil Shute - On The Beach
Stephen King - The Stand
George R Stewart -Earth Abides
Richard Matheson - I am Legend (the ending was changed in the recent film version with Will Smith)
S.M. Stirling - Dies The Fire
Caragh O'Brien - Birthmarked
Kate Wilhelm - Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang
Adam Roberts - The Snow
Adam Roberts - On
Veronica Roth - Divergent

R2PeePoo Fri 27-Apr-12 23:10:37


I who have never known men-Jacqueline Harpman
A Gift Upon the Shore-Wren

The first one is more sci-fi (and astonishingly good imo), second post-apoc.

OhBuggerandArse Fri 27-Apr-12 23:17:04

I would third Riddley Walker - it's a great, great book.

It helps to navigate and place what's going on if you can read it with a map of Kent, preferably an old one, as all the roads have been updated and their names/numbers changed since Hoban wrote.

I'm Just reading my first ever. It was a kindle freebie and my experience with those is dreadful. It's called The Killing Moon by Rob Glenn and I'm just over half way. I was thoroughly enjoying it but it has turned rather violent so my final judgement is reserved.
Have made a list of these recommendations as it's great to find a new genre I like,

teatimesthree Mon 30-Apr-12 20:25:20

Riddley Walker is amazing.

Earth Abides by George Stewart is interesting but a bit creepy esp. on race.

Recently read The Death of Grass and really enjoyed it. I also liked The Road a lot. The Ice People by Maggie Gee is interesting. Love feminist/post-apo cross over, like The Carhullen Army by Sarah Hall, and Woman On The Edge of Time by Marge Piercy (altho that is perhaps more utopian/dystopian).

AkhalTeke Mon 30-Apr-12 21:32:15

Mara and Dann by Doris Lessing. Set in next Ice age.

whackamole Tue 01-May-12 01:58:14

I love apocalyptic fiction and have read a fair few noted here. That book of short stories is great!!

Can I add Margaret Atwood's the year of the flood? I love her writing so much, oryx and crake was brilliant and there is going to be a third.I can't wait.

I read girlfriend in a coma by Douglas Coupland years ago which would go along with your theme, I hope its not just a teen book as it's my first recommendation please be easy with me. blush

eternallyoptimistic Tue 01-May-12 03:41:11

The Road by Cormac Mcarthy

'Girlfriend In A Coma' deffo not teenage. Pretty good although it does get rather silly towards the end - but you can play 'Spot the The Smiths' lyrics as you read.'

stargirl1701 Tue 01-May-12 20:34:43

The Road. It's scary though. I give my copy away after I had read it because I was too scared to have it in the house!

SkinnyVanillaLatte Tue 01-May-12 20:40:51

Its Last Light,I think (the other Alex Scarrow book).Both thoroughly recommended.

SkinnyVanillaLatte Tue 01-May-12 20:45:09

I just couldn't do the language in Riddley Walker,but I enjoyed The Road,Death of Grass etc.

I can recommend some good zombie reads if you like that sort of thing.....

BlingLoving Tue 01-May-12 21:30:09

OP here. I've just finished Last Light - the Alex Scarrow one. I've bought Afterlight but am a bit nervous. Apparently, having had DS I now find novels where children might get hurt difficult to read. I thought it was a good read but I am not sure if I enjoyed it. Of course, I bought the next one so... grin

Glad to see a few more ideas on here. Will be back as I work my way through a few.

R2PeePoo Tue 01-May-12 21:53:44

Back with more (like I said, I like this genre grin)

The City, Not Long After - Pat Murphy
The Memoirs of a Survivor-Doris Lessing
The Pesthouse by Jim Crace

Also there is a sequel to 'Mara and Dann' mentioned above -

'The Story of General Dann and Mara's Daughter, Griot and the Snow Dog '

BlingLoving Thu 03-May-12 10:21:39

R2PeePoo - it was you who recommended Last Light and After Light? I'm enjoying After Light much more than Last Light but... did he write After Light too? There are annoying discrepancies between the books, mostly to do with the plot of Leona seeing the old guys that I'm finding a bit frustrating.

R2PeePoo Thu 03-May-12 12:28:52

Yes I think he wrote both books. TBH I have only read the first one ( is that Last Light?) when it first came out a few years ago. I don't think I'll bother with the sequel then.

BlingLoving Thu 03-May-12 14:21:10

Well actually, I'm enjoying the sequl (AfterLight) more - it's more traditional post apocolyptic in that it's looking at how society has evolved, seems to be developing the traditional physical and mental and emotional journey etc. Last Light was all about an assassin attempting to kill her...

Although I do feel he's a little unnecessarily free with the descriptions of children being killed... post DS I'm definitely not as able to cope with that and I'm not sure that a third of the way into the book graphif descriptions of at least 3 children's deaths is really doing me any good.

R2PeePoo Fri 04-May-12 11:57:48

I know what you mean about children's deaths, I am much more sensitive to them now than before my DC.

But then it does give a book an air of gritty realism, I think a real cataclysm/lawless society would have the greatest effect on the very old and the very young and they would be the most vulnerable and first to die. I read Joe Sacco's documentary comic 'Safe Area Gorazde' about the Bosnian War and it was my first real glimpse about what it actually might be like to be in a war as a civilian, I wish I could burn some of the images out of my head tbh. I think we are very cut off from the reality of lawlessness, murder, genocide etc which is the luxury of living in such a wealthy and ordered country; this is a good thing too though!

I don't know, just musing I guess, especially as I haven't read the book.

Anyway I came back to this thread to mention another book:

The Girl who owned a city by O.T Nelson

Earthymama Wed 09-May-12 12:17:55

Can I recommend all of Sheri Tepper's books?
She is amazing, often post-apocalyptic or alternate world. I have read all of them but just downloaded several onto my Kindle so that I am sure of a good read on holiday.

Woman on the Edge of Time Marge Piercy, dated now but great book

SandraSue I am just reading The Strain following your recommendation. I have never read any horror before and I'm absolutely gripped by it. Trouble is it's getting scarier by the page and I think I am too much of a wimp to continue.

TheCountessOlenska Mon 14-May-12 08:29:18

SecretSquirrels - I just finished The Strain and the second one The Fall (also as recommended on this thread!) - They are really creepy. The second one has a scene in a train tunnel that seriously gave me the shivers when I was on the train in the Mersey tunnel the other day!

Am now reading The Passage (recommended on here and on my vampire thread!) - which has a similar plot (vampire virus) but is better written imo. Am enjoying!

ghosteditor Mon 14-May-12 08:41:39

I second quite a few of the books mentioned, especially Riddley Walker and Oryx and Crake.

Also Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell (stick with it);

Life After God by DouglasCoupland

All the Dead Are Here by Pete Bevan (disclaimer - these are interlinked short stories about zombies, written and recently published by a MNers husband, but I just read them and liked them!)

I'll check my book shelf later for anything not already mentioned...

Yes to 'Life After God.' Can't remember if we've already mentioned 'Girlfriend In A Coma' too.

bran Tue 22-May-12 12:41:34

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

SummerLightning Tue 22-May-12 22:13:35

I've read wool too. Loved it and couldn't put it down! Cheap as well. Plus you can get the first one for free to see if you like it.

HermioneE Tue 22-May-12 22:17:02

Echoing the recommendation of Divergent, and OP, thanks for starting this thread! smile

PandaWatch Thu 24-May-12 12:14:24

I reckon the Dark Tower series by Stephen King would suit your needs! I've just finished book 5 of 7 and they are fantastic.

PercyFilth Thu 24-May-12 14:56:52

Have you read the new one, Panda? Would be a good place to read it, I'd say. It actually fits in just before book 5, but it's similar to Wizard and Glass, with Roland telling a story. I loved it, the core story was a most beguiling tale in the old tradition (wicked step-parent, magic, a quest).

PandaWatch Thu 24-May-12 16:50:26

Thanks for the tip Percy - I'll take your advice and read that next! I've always been a huge fan of SK but didn't ever fancy the DT series for some reason. Then I picked up the gunslinger a couple of months ago and have been hooked ever since!

tiggy114 Thu 24-May-12 21:18:56

Ok my 2 penith: children of men, handmaids tale, i am legend, 1984 (classic), the running man (stephen king), battle royale, The Stand (SK again)

tiggy114 Thu 24-May-12 21:20:57

Oh and 'Brave new world'

outmonday Sun 27-May-12 20:33:46

None of these post-apocolyptic worlds is better than the world we know, is it?
I admire enormously Riddley Walker, The Road, The Handmaid's Tale and others mentioned, including Oryx and Crake, but not The Year of the Flood.

Hater by David moody is excellent. Really interesting take on the genre.

Exogenesis Sun 27-May-12 22:44:00

The Autumn books by David Moody! AMAZING!

BulletProofMum Sun 27-May-12 22:53:28

My favourite genre - loving this list. I'd forgotten all about Ridley walker. I loved it and lent it to a friend never to be seen again.

My recent favourites are the road, oryx and crake.

Have just bought metro and the big book recommended earlier.


BulletProofMum Sun 27-May-12 22:55:53

Land of ash was a recent book of short stories. Very good!

thequeensknickers Sun 27-May-12 23:06:21

Just watching The Road and wishing I'd already read the book.

Angelico Sun 27-May-12 23:15:00

Teen stuff: Blood Red Road (Moira Young), also Gone / Hunger / Plague / Lies - all by Michael Grant.

Definitely The Stand by Stephen King. It's the daddy!

Enjoyed Last Light and Afterlight as recommended on here - thank you!

Love The Road and Maragaret Atwood stuff, another quirky one is Far North (Marcel Theroux) - it was recommended on Radio 4 a couple of years ago and I enjoyed it.

I've ordered oryx and Crake smile

Wilding Mon 28-May-12 08:16:22

Ooh, I am v excited about this thread, I love a good post-apocalyptic book - going to check some of these out now!

PercyFilth Mon 28-May-12 10:06:06

I liked The Handmaid's Tale, but couldn't get into Oryx & Crake.

GrandPoohBah Mon 28-May-12 17:43:27

I thought Year of the Flood was better than Oryx and Crake, though neither came up to the standard of The Handmaid's Tale.

Survivors is very good - it's what the recent and 70s BBC adaptions were based on. Can't remember who it's by though.

Right, I'm off to spend some money on Amazon - this is one of my favourite genres!

oh bum. I hope I can get into it - I'm relying on it!

R2PeePoo Mon 28-May-12 20:12:00

I've recently read some good ones so have come back to add them to the thread.

'Life as we knew it' (and the two sequels) by Pfeffer. Meteor knocks moon out of orbit, affects tides, increases volcanic activity= very cold earth

'Snowfall' (and two sequels) by Mitchell Smith. Few hundred years after apocalypse. I liked the first one but the other two were just OK.

'The Last Days' by Frater (and two sequels plus story collection). Zombies. Main characters are women, one of whom is a mother which leads into the most terrifyingly upsetting opening to a zombie novel I have ever read. Unusual in that the female characters are better fleshed out than the male characters.

bran Mon 28-May-12 20:43:23

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

R2PeePoo Mon 28-May-12 20:59:29

Lucifer's Hammer is great, in the same vein are:

Warday by Strieber
Wolf and iron by Dickson

Further in the zombie theme are the graphic novels by Kirkman (The Walking Dead), but they are still ongoing which is a little frustrating.

Someone mentioned Survivors by Terry Nation, good but too short imo.

There is a mosaic novel I didn't notice mentioned above: Zombie Apocalypse by Jones.

Oh and 'Flood' by Stephen Baxter

<really really like this genre>

Nooooooooo - I tried reading the first 'Autumn' book last week and it was absolutely, shockingly rubbish. It felt like it had been written by a 13 year old who had never read a book in his/her life. DREADFUL. Sorry but it was really bad.

If you want bad zombie stuff that is actually readable and mildly entertaining, rather than merely excrutiating, then try 'Feed' and its follow-up by Mira Grant - zombie-fighting bloggers.

Another vote for 'Far North' - I enjoyed that.

bran Wed 30-May-12 20:31:45

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

crescentmoon Sat 02-Jun-12 21:38:54

yes i love this thread, i don't have anyone to talk to or ask and DH doesnt understand my obsession! i love post apocalyptic books after plague, after zombies, after earthquake, environmental catastrophe,

i always loved reading kitchen boy fantasies, moved onto space opera and now since my third pregnancy cant get enough of post apocalyptic fiction. im constantly looking for lists online and im so happy at some of the recommendations here.

i loved metro 2033, i read it whilst pregnant with youngest ds and i was terrified, never felt the same on the london tube again lol. but wasnt the ending so strange i couldnt understand the conclusion, i keep waiting for a sequel!

i finally watched the road after reading the book, i couldnt watch more than half of it i found it very grim. the scene in the book when they stumble into the cellar where the people are kept to be eaten later piece by piece made me have nightmares, but the film scene was even worse!

iv read
far north - i found it in the regular fiction section at waterstones not in sci fi which surprised me!,
the stand - i loved it,
the road - scary but good,
last light which i enjoyed but didnt read the first afterlight,
world war z - the book that got me hooked into the genre,
autumn - which i agree with earlier posters was crap,
feed - i liked but didnt want to read another blog entry style book again!,
the death of grass - which actually stays on my mind more than any other book because i found it the most plausible,
on the beach,
Flood and Arc by stephen baxter,

what about post apocalyptic films? iv only watched a few, has anyone ever seen Threads? the film based in Sheffield about a nuclear attack? i told myself id rather die than be a survivor like the girl in the story. it was sooo depressing. the road - i didnt even finish, and the last train? has anyone ever seen it, not a film as such more a tv programme series. i only ever watched the first two episodes but it was good.

R2PeePoo Sat 02-Jun-12 22:02:37

DH got me the original 70's series of Survivors for my birthday present a few years ago. We watched about 2/3rds and then lost interest but the first couple of discs were absolutely excellent before it all sort of trailed away.

I've watched Children of Men recently and a couple episodes of V (from the 1980s ?), the first was OK, the second was quite good. Also Book of Eli (excellent), war of the worlds (first good, second was awful I though). I struggled through The postman but I really hate Kevin Kostner. Same with the Mad Max films and Mel Gibson. I liked the Last Train but again lost interest after a while.

Movies 24 often has B-movie type post apocs like The Lost Future and Lost City Raiders which are not very good but I watch them anyway (Movies 24 also has such gems as Megashark vs Crocosaurus and Sharktopus).

But I can't watch anything with zombies no no. Even the Living Dead films. I found one once on Iplayer and watched about 5 minutes. Didn't sleep for a week. <coward>

R2PeePoo Sat 02-Jun-12 22:03:31

*first war of the worlds was good, second one with Tom Cruise was awful I thought.

whereismywine Thu 07-Jun-12 18:38:16

I'm currently reading daughters of the north, more dystopian I think but I love this genre. I've got The Rapture on my to read shelf. I often wonder why I like this kind of book so much. I think The Chrysalids and The Handmaids Tale when I was younger started me off. I'd love to write my own. I think they remind me of all the good things I have, scare me a bit and there is often good world building. Why do you like them? Dh is bemused that I gravitate to end of the world books.

whereismywine Thu 07-Jun-12 18:40:18

Oh god and moon threads - scared the living daylights out of me, we were shown it at school. If I see Sheffield I think of that film!

SuperAwesome Thu 07-Jun-12 22:13:34

I love the post/apocalyptic genre, and Day of the Triffids still gives me the willies. Wool is definitely on my must-read list. Also pretty new and doing well: White Horse by Alex Adams.

Devora Thu 07-Jun-12 22:28:00

The Road is fantastic but almost unbearably disturbing.

R2PeePoo Fri 08-Jun-12 10:30:42

Just finished 'Dark Inside' by Jeyn Roberts (people all turn evil and start killing each other) which was a very quick read but not bad. YA and first of a series or trilogy I think, second is out in August.

Also 'The Other Life' by Susanne Winnacker- mutated rabies virus mutates people into hideous creatures. YA, heavy on the teen romance, also first of a series.

DontHaveAtv Fri 08-Jun-12 10:36:47

I just finished The Road. I really liked it. I watched the film last night too which stayed true to the book.
I'm really into Dystopian and Post apocalyptic books at the moment, so loving this thread.

grinningbee Fri 08-Jun-12 14:16:37

<Rubs hands with glee>

Ooooh, hello like-minded people grin

I watched The Road the other week and bawled like a baby at the end. Full on proper sobbing. I might have to give the book a go too by the look of it.

I've just got into the newer zombie apocalypse type books, but am a long time fan of Stephen King so The Stand is one of my favourites.

I've just finished reading a trilogy on my kindle by T W Brown called Zomblog. Rather gory, but I enjoyed them.

I will also second the recommendation for Swan Song. I remember reading that 20 ish years ago and enjoying it very much.

I shall watch with interest for any more goodies to get my teeth into.

pointythings Fri 08-Jun-12 19:18:28

I can't believe that no-one has mentioned 'Dinner at Deviant's Palace' by Tim Powers! May be out of print or not bekindled, though.

bran Fri 08-Jun-12 20:21:56

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Angelico Sat 09-Jun-12 16:25:29

Some great ideas here! grin

Have to say I thought 'The Rapture' was a bag of shite!!! (Is it the one with the wheeelchair-bound psychologist? If not apologies, I've mixed it up but f**k me then ending was BOLLOCKS!)

Currently pregnant and tried to watch The Road film as I love the book so much. Made it half an hour, sobbing every 5 minutes or so. I'm blaming hormones but actually being pregnant has changed the whole story and made it unbearably intense and poignant. Didn't make it as far as the awful 'human cattle' scene <goes weak and whimpers> - bad enough in the book! confused

SkinnyVanillaLatte Sat 09-Jun-12 16:41:10

The Joe McKinney zombie books are great.I agree with someone else who recommended Frater.Also Roux.

I loved the Moody books.Also excellent zombie reads are by J L Bourne and Z A Recht.

I picked up The Year of the Flood the other day - will be my first foray into Attwood.

PercyFilth Sat 09-Jun-12 19:46:53

The Rapture starts off OK but crashes and burns.

Agree re 'The Rapture.' At her best I quite like Liz Jensen (love 'The Ninth Life Of Louis Drax'but the ending of 'The Rapture' was ridiculous.

SkinnyVanillaLatte Mon 11-Jun-12 16:34:08

Zombie Brittanica by Thomas Emson,is rather lovely,I have to say.

crescentmoon Mon 11-Jun-12 20:28:54

what is it that you like about post apocalyptic books? i cant even explain it myself. its not that i even imagine myself one of a plucky band of survivors living in a grim world taken over by vampires or aliens or whatever. i know, myself, that id be the type to be killed off or die in the first few chapters! but i love them!

from the young adult books i liked the host, blood red road, hunger games, divergent, ashes (by ilsa bick - very good!), angel fire

R2PeePoo Wed 13-Jun-12 12:36:18

crescent I love post-apoc fiction because I find people tiresome and the idea of quiet and clear streets appeals immensely. When I read post-apoc I can I get that feeling for a little while.

Its also fun to imagine what the world would be like, how it would develop and what would be missing from our current world. It reminds me of all the drawbacks of the world collapsing (healthcare, no law and order etc) which makes it easier to deal with the world as it is.

Plus it might happen- not zombies perhaps, but an epidemic would spread fast with our current methods of transport. I have read a lot of books about diseases and how they mutate and post-apoc helps me deal with my fears. I wouldn't want to survive in a world overrun by hostile creatures though.

I'm reading 'Monster Nation' by David Wellington at the moment, its not bad, but I am glad I didn't buy it and borrowed it from the library instead. I also borrowed the most recent Walking Dead graphic novel, 'Flesheaters' by Joe McKinney and 'The Official Zombie Handbook (UK)' waiting so I am going to have a zombiethon.

SkinnyVanillaLatte Wed 13-Jun-12 12:53:24

R2ReePoo I found Monster Nation a bit so-so.I think I abandoned it before the end as it got a bit fantastical. I don't like graphic novels,but Flesheaters and The Official Zombie Handbook (uk) are both well worth a read!

crescentmoon I like them as they transport me somewhere exciting and tbh I love a bit of descriptive blood and guts and gore.I do sometimes wonder whether it's a bit odd to like that sort of thing but I was weaned on horror....

R2PeePoo Wed 13-Jun-12 13:51:20

I'm only thirty or so pages into Monster Nation and I keep putting it down and not picking it up for a while which isn't a good sign. Its seems a bit bitty, I'm finding it hard to remember all the different plot threads as they change so frequently. PLus <SPOILERS> zombie sheep? WTAF.<SPOILERS>. Its not very action packed in the way of other novels where the survivors struggle to survive. I suspect I'll finish it but not read the next one.

I love the Walking Dead books, but getting fed up of having to wait for the next one continually. They are gritty and shocking and gruesome but its quite hard to tell the different characters apart sometimes-all in black and white line drawings.

Pleased to hear the other two are worth the effort.

I see you recommended Zombie Britannica, I loved that one but it was far too short, needed to be twice the length!

My all time favourite zombie novels have to be ones by Madeleine Roux and Jonathon Mayberry (and World War Z of course). The beginning of Rhiannon Frater's first book was the best and most shocking beginning to a zombie book so far, that haunted me for weeks. Her female characters are quite well drawn too but I wasn't entirely convinced by the men and the relationships that are formed - the gore was excellent though.

R2PeePoo Wed 13-Jun-12 13:52:20


SkinnyVanillaLatte Wed 13-Jun-12 15:02:11

R2,I have the next two Frater books on order so I'm looking forward to them.I see what you mean with it,but if you take that on board,I agree it's worth it.

I loved the Allison Hewitt book,by Roux,and now have the Sadie Walker one on order.

I haven't tried Maberry yet - been on my read list for a while.

I have to say I have Monster Island on order too - I'm curious!

My all time favourites are J L Bourne's books and Z A Recht.....

R2PeePoo Wed 13-Jun-12 15:18:15

Re Frater: I enjoyed the books but I think they could have benefitted from a really good edit, I found loads of spelling/grammar errors and lots of uses of speech that were slightly disjointed/odd. And after the awesome start I guess I was disappointed. They are better than 95% of the current zombie writing though, loved the fact that she focused on women (the opposite of Bourne and Recht) and their experience, whereas it tends to be the other way round in general - usually lots of talk about guns. There is definitely a gap in the market there. The Bourne and Recht books were technically excellent and I really enjoyed the story - read the whole series etc, but I just didn't click with them and the characters.

Maberry on the other hand is awesome. Well-written, exciting, taut and I really felt that deep, pit of the stomach uneasiness that is missing from a lot of zombie books (I'm not feeling it in Monster Nation). The characterisation is excellent too, they feel well fleshed out. I did all the cooking with the books in my hand, read far too late at night etc.

bran Wed 13-Jun-12 16:26:39

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

BetterOnACamel Wed 13-Jun-12 16:39:23

Ooh, this is great stuff!
Please check out The Wind-Up Girl by Paolo Bacigaloupi - it is fantastic.
Here's a review that also mentions my other obsession favourite, China Mieville review

bruffin Wed 13-Jun-12 16:39:30

Just read John Christopher "The Death of Grass" it is often compared to the Day of the Triffids as it was written about the same time. It was very good and does make your think about what could happen.

John Christopher also wrote for teenagers with the trilogies
The Tripods - which is like a sequel to War of The Worlds
The Prince in Waiting series - also a post apocolyptic series

crescentmoon Wed 13-Jun-12 18:37:10

The death of Grass is the one book that i thought could possibly become true - it left me feeling down for months.

my husband thinks im crazy because from all the post apocalyptic books i read i make plans for how my children could survive different scenarios.

iv already got my 7 year old down for archery lessons ostensibly for recreation but deep down because i want him to have a skill that would make him an asset to any survival camps. when hes old enough il take him to classes to teach him to build a bow and arrow lol. ditto for my daughter and baby when they get older!

this is what i would do....

in a zombie scenario - head north.
in a vampire scenario - head south
climate change/flood - head to highland
breakdown of law and order - head away from high populated areas

any more additions?

R2PeePoo Wed 13-Jun-12 18:55:46

crescent 'On the beach' had the same effect on me.

I'm not sure that I would actually want to be a survivor, especially in a zombie scenario with them as an added threat. Once you get over the initial catastrophe its not an appealing prospect.

It would be terrifying to leave a technologically advanced world where you have a great deal of 'help' and a great deal of distance from production of everything.

As a woman you would probably be expected to have as many children as possible as there needs to be a certain population level to enable people to survive (someone worked this out once, wish I could find it), support the vulnerable etc. And there would be no contraception of course and there would be a greater threat of rape/violence. Once the tinned food ran out you would basically be plunged back into subsistence farming, learning from scratch how to make everything we have forgotten how to. A nail= learning how to mine, process and melt metal, how to shape it etc. I have no idea how to manage crop rotation or deliver a baby sheep. How do you weave cloth? How would you travel long distances without cars or planes? And it would be hard work, with little assistance, ploughs drawn by horses if not by humans.. Plus it would be a world with a low life expectancy, with high rates of mortality in children and women of a childbearing age. Throughout history there has been nothing worse than being a peasant and it would be returning to that again.

R2PeePoo - yes, that ^^ exactly.

Sometimes I spend an unhappy half hour working out what happenings in my life would have killed me/had me killed if I had been born at different times, usually inspired by something I've read in a book.

When I read The Red Tent with my book club I was quite surprised to find out I would have been left outside to die immediately after my birth just for having different coloured eyes.

I also had a birth mark that would have had me burned as a witch at one point in history. The surgeon who was removing it was very cheerful about it as he told me it would have been seen as the devil's mark on a witch and ensured me a very violent death. Several books since then have confirmed my fate, unless I joined the nunnery as in Ken Follett's Worlds Without End.

I suffered from a minor form of pre-adolesent epilepsy that manifested itself as dizzy spells rather than fits, and the doctor who diagnosed that was again quite cheerful when he told me I would have had a hole drilled in my skull to release the demons.

And then there have been various illnesses, accidents and minor (for today's standards) health issues that would probably have killed me off a long time ago had I been born in different times. Being very short sighted is one of them. Pregnancy and childbirth would certainly have killed me at another time in history.

What I would do in a post-apocolptic world I don't know but the thought of being as disaster prone as I am in a world filled with zombies and without any modern conveniences is more scary than whatever it is that caused the end of the world and the rise of the zombies themselves.

I might as well resign myself to covering myself in ketchup and throwing myself to the zombies because I doubt I'd last the year in the world you have described.

SkinnyVanillaLatte Thu 14-Jun-12 12:18:48

R2 it appears that 'Flesh and Bone' is being added to Maberry's 'Rot and Ruin' series.There is also 'Dead of night:A Zombie novel'.

I agree that 'Death of Grass' and 'On the Beach' are very disturbing.

Anything to do with a nuclear holocaust petrifies me - growing up in 'The Protect and Survive' years left many of us with a shadow over our younger years, I think.
It's the one thing,that (on a global scale) is truly something I think I would neither be able to,nor even necessarily want to,survive.

crescentmoon,I'm all for a bit of prepping! A bit of a OFRS does no one any harm ...

R2PeePoo Thu 14-Jun-12 13:32:22

Already on my Amazon wishlist skinny grin, love that series.

I agree about nuclear holocaust, thats not a good situation as you would have all the other drawbacks of a post-apoc situation, but with a devastated world and radiation sickness to add into the equation. Plus birth defects/mutations etc.

Reminded me of another book to add to the list:

Raymond Briggs- 'As the Wind Blows' - an ordinary middle aged couple experience a nuclear holocaust. Graphic novel. Very good, made me cry.

noone- I do the same- I have a history degree with special interest in social history and there is no period of history I would choose to live in. The present it pretty good. I'm shortsighted, have rhesus negative blood and am essentially very lazy. I would make a terrible mother of 15 baking my own bread. I can barely cope with my two children.

crescentmoon Thu 14-Jun-12 21:56:20

noone your post made me laugh, especially

"What I would do in a post-apocolptic world I don't know but the thought of being as disaster prone as I am in a world filled with zombies and without any modern conveniences is more scary than whatever it is that caused the end of the world and the rise of the zombies themselves. "

and i totally see the grimness your describing r2 about going back to peasant life.
i always wonder how i would cope without having any skills. how to chop wood, how to light a fire, how to forage for food, tbh i dont even know how to cope without ALWAYS, what do women do when theres no feminine hygeine products?

i would be terrified about childbirth outside a hospital, - love all the comforts of medicine me.

my OFRS is full of meds btw, very useful for bartering. you could grow an allotment but what would protect it from raiders.

i dont even know how to garden, flowers or veg!

i would def. want to cease existence quickly in a scenario like in the road where people were eating each other. after i watched the film threads for the first time i wondered how there wasnt mass suicides in the 80s at the prospect of a nuclear war hanging over peoples heads all the time!

R2PeePoo Thu 14-Jun-12 22:33:55

Meds useful until they pass their use-by date and become gradually more ineffective. You could raid a pharmacy etc but after a few years the meds would be ineffective or dangerous. Thats if you can work out what should be given for what illness. Then a simple cut could lead to sepsis if you were unlucky. There would be a world of rotting bodies and the rusting and dangerous remains of the modern society we live in, including packs of wild dogs, escaped zoo animals and other possibly hostile communities.

Back to herbal medicine then I suppose but we have lost the skills to find honey, make vinegar, make salt, find helpful herbs (they all look like grass to me). I had a homebirth but I had two trained midwives, a resucitation kit, sterile sutures, medicine to bring the placenta down, a TENs machine and G&A. It is possible to have children safely in a pre-industrial society- the midwife Martha Ballard in 18th century America for example, had a mortality rate of 4 women out of 996, but we have lost those skills (and women who are prepared to ride twenty miles in a blizzard, cross a raging river and stay on site for two days to deliver a baby.)

Sanitary products- rags and other absorbent material like wads of cotton. Some communities don't bother to use sanitary protection like the !Kung tribe.
The Egyptians may have used softened papyrus and the Greeks were supposed to have used lint wrapped around wood. But you'd have fewer periods because of childbirth/breastfeeding/malnutrition and an earlier death <cheery thought>.

I haven't thought about this at all..........

I love post-apocalyptic scenarios - for some utterly perverse reason, it makes me feel cosy. confused I used to tell myself very long, involved narratives about surviving various disasters and starting again, using technologies that could be sustained when all the infrastructure we've ever known had failed. deep down I'm probably ideal fodder for a nutter American militia group

Could I suggest some novels by Jan Mark? She wrote books aimed at teenagers but most of her teenage novels are extremely intelligent, readable and compelling. The Eclipse of the Century is a disturbing and haunting post-apocalyptic novel and you're never really fully told what's going on, or what's happened. (Not as annoying as it sounds!) Riding Tycho and Useful Idiots are more dystopic, but excellent too. Worth tracking down on Amazon.

bruffin Fri 15-Jun-12 08:44:35

There is also the lack of vaccines and the return of diseases that often killed or maimed.
I don't think I would want to be around in worlds like The Death of Grass.
John Wyndham was a more optimistic about human nature than John Christopher

Angelico Fri 15-Jun-12 17:58:51

I know we're talking about books but I really loved the TV series Jericho. Watched it last summer, unfortunately they only made one full season and then a 7 episode series 2 to tie it up as stupid American TV company cancelled it.

It does drive me mad that anything vaguely intelligent frequently bombs with American audiences, gets cancelled then trickles over to Europe on TV or DVD and people love it. Very frustrating when you get into the show only for it to stop - but it is quite thought provoking. Might be too 'wholesome' for the cynics grin

R2PeePoo Fri 15-Jun-12 18:31:42

<adds Jericho to Amazon wishlist>

mercibucket Fri 15-Jun-12 18:36:27

Thank you all

I never actually realised I liked a 'genre' before reading this thread, but I see I do

Will bookmark this, ta

MegBusset Fri 15-Jun-12 18:37:56

Bit late to this but if nobody's mentioned: Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, and This Is The Way The World Ends by James Morrow.

SkinnyVanillaLatte Fri 15-Jun-12 19:31:09

Meg,'This is the way the Earth ends' looks worth a read.

(At the risk of being ridiculed,) I also love to read survival stuff (SAS Survival Guide and the like). Also books on pandemics,self-sufficiency and so forth.

crescentmoon Fri 15-Jun-12 19:34:40

thanks for the tip on jericho. i read the reviews on amazon and it sounds brilliant!

iv found all the episodes online so will watch first pilot show once kids are in bed - am i allowed to say that? stop me now...

crescentmoon Fri 15-Jun-12 19:36:15

im so happy about these book recommendations too. imagine so many people liking the same thing.

Angelico Fri 15-Jun-12 19:45:26

I actually re-watched the first episode of Jericho there after posting the tip grin

It takes the first two to really get sucked in... but then you'll be hooked grin

R2PeePoo Fri 15-Jun-12 20:33:59

Skinny No ridicule here, I have borrowed a lot of books from the library about diseases and epidemics.

I got the 'Bay of the Dead' out of the library today. Its a Torchwood book but reviews on Amazon say 'Not enough Torchwood' and 'Too many zombies' so sounds just up my street.

I have somewhere in the house a fabulously awful book from the 1960's where talking giant wasps suddenly appear and kill most of the human population. It is brilliant in a really hideously outdated kind of way.

Remembered some more:

Z for Zachariah
Down to a Sunless Sea
Bloodtide (and also Bloodsong) by Melvin Burgess

SkinnyVanillaLatte Fri 15-Jun-12 20:46:10

Have looked those up and I have to say that 'Down to a sunless sea' looks excellent.

I'm starting to get confused - I can see I'm going to need to do myself a list of books I've read (with comments so I know if they're worth re reading) and a list of those I want to read. That's very anorak,isn't it??? grin.

I get most of my books from the library and then look for any particularly good ones to buy. My list is long and my purse empty though!

R2PeePoo Fri 15-Jun-12 21:20:01

Skinny- have you heard of Librarything? Its a book cataloguing website. You set up an account and search for and add the books to your own online 'library'. You can then tag them and manage them. Each book has a page where you can read reviews, link to current conversations in the Librarything forums and review it yourself. You can also click on other people's tags e.g. post-apoc and get a list of all books tagged by other members as post-apoc. Very dangerous for the bank balance.

There is another site called Goodreads but I haven't really used it as I found Librarything first.

I use the library a lot too,I was stupidly excited when I was told I could search the library catalogue online and reserve that way too. I was always having to quickly race around with a grumpy toddler but now I can just nip in and pick them up and leave.

I love LibraryThing!

PercyFilth Fri 15-Jun-12 21:23:53

Oh, the online library search and reserve facility is great. I've reserved books that haven't even been published yet, so am one of the first in the queue and can stroll in and collect them as soon as the copies hit the library grin Saves a fortune too.

SkinnyVanillaLatte Fri 15-Jun-12 21:29:52

R2 that sounds complicated! (computer dunce).But I can do the online library catalogue reservations and I while away too many a happy hour.... I've even had books sent from the States!!

R2Peepoo: I bet that's The Furies, by Keith Roberts. will you sell me your copy?
I love post apocalypse fiction, too. AM currently tinkering with my own If Zombies Happen, well sort of, novel which focuses on the practical difficulties of trying to cope with the End Of The World when you have a toddler and don';t drive....

My thoughts: The Stand - I have always liked this ever since I was a teen, but on recent re-reading I kept thinking, so what was happening in the rest of the world while the Yanks farted about playing my god's bigger than your god?

The Passage... Well it's not bad. But I did get a bit narked when I got to the end and it, er, wasn't the end and there's two more books to come. FFS mate you;ve had 700 pages already, could you not have got to the point? Cutting out the interminable fucking colonists would have helped.

I recommend, if you can get hold of them, King Blood or Blood Crazy by Simon Clark, there's a bloke with a post-apocalypse obsession.

Also, though it's not quite the same genre, the Bold As Love quintet by Gwyneth Jones: I am obsessed with these books even though they are massively flawed (she's an awful clunky dialogue writer and there seems to be a lot going on that she doesn't actually tell you about...) there is something about them that really touches something in me.

And the one that inspired me to start writing my own but only because it's so shit: Breeding Ground by Sarah Pinsent. Utterly, utterly ludicrous and unpleasant.

R2PeePoo Fri 15-Jun-12 22:52:17

I love Librarything, its one of the few places where I feel I am not reading enough! I get a lot of recommendations from there and there are a lot of like minded people.

Solid Yes! The Furies. Thats the one! I looked it up on Amazon and it looks like it has been reprinted. If I can find my copy you can have it, I'll have a look next week. Its a really ratty cheap paperback though, with a B-movie cover so feel free to say no.

Your book sounds interesting, there is a definite gap in the market for books that cover the female experience in a zombie apocalypse. I can only think of Roux and Frater who think about these things. Most of the books have American male characters who know their way around guns.

Remembered another- Reign of the Dead (I didn't like this one much, very generic).

On a sort of genre crossover is 'The Sentinel Mage' which is fantasy but has the characters fighting the reanimated dead half way through. I really enjoyed it, simple story but well executed imo. She also writes quite easy to read and enjoyable trashy romantic fantasy.

R2PeePoo Fri 15-Jun-12 23:13:59

<adds Simon Clark books to Amazon wish list and heads off to library website>

R2PeePoo Fri 15-Jun-12 23:16:58

Oh I have King Blood already (thank you Librarything). I was racking my brains to remember the title as I read it about six months ago and I wanted to add it to the thread here. There is one scene with the fleeing population and a boat IIRC that was very exciting/moving/thought provoking.

I second Z for zachariah, it caused me a few sleepless nights worrying about nuclear holocaust as a teenager.

Also This time of darkness, HM hoover i think.

Mortal engines by Philip reeve also good.

All the above aimed at teenagers really so not as disturbing as some others mentioned.

I love John wyndam so great to see so many other fans!

Shall I post the opening chapter of mine grin? It's a bit long and sort of not really quite right yet...

R2PeePoo Sat 16-Jun-12 00:56:32

Sure, I'd love to read it.

I'm a non-driver with a small child (and a slightly older one too) so have always assumed I would be one of the first to die. I'd be interested to see how you would keep yourself alive.

Oh why not....
Chapter One

Maybe it's because my life was, by most people's standards, fairly shit that I still have it. I say my life rather than our life because I think and hope that Mikey's life wasn't shit before it all happened. When you're two, you're easily satisfied if you're fed, warm, entertained and loved. You don't understand or care about things like career progression or the property ladder or what the rest of society has to say about a single mother in a cramped chilly flat, topping up what benefits she gets by discreetly working on a sex chat phone line, sometimes so skint that she has to decide between eating more than once a day and putting her last few quid on the electricity card so the power doesn't go off completely. Though the very last time I had to make that choice I took the third option and paid to top up the credit on my mobile. For all the good that ultimately did I might as well have spent it on a couple of litres of cider or a big box of chocolates or some or other decadent treat. There was plenty in the papers and on most of the popular internet chat forums about how all us single mothers on benefits spent the lot on fags and booze and make up, leaving our kids in shitty nappies in front of the telly all day while we updated our Facebook profiles and fiddled about with online dating. There was talk of new laws and changes to the benefit system to penalise us even more and make us suffer, and constantly more and more and more about how it was all our fault because we wouldn't or couldn't be sufficiently pleasing to Our Men.
Mikey never had a shitty nappy on for more than a few minutes, unless he shat hugely in the night and didn't wake up to complain, and while I used the internet intermittently to chat to all those friends I never saw any more, I spent the bulk of my time playing with him, taking him to playgroups and the park and trying my best to cook us reasonable meals. As to pleasing My Man, Roy never had any complaints about me – or Mikey. He wasn't around enough to find fault with anything.
It was the Friday morning when we woke up to find the electricity meter had run out overnight. Because the bill for the broadband, TV channels and landline was overdue, they'd cut that off nearly a fortnight ago, miserable gouging bastards. This week had been rent week and, as usual, it had taken nearly every penny I had, Mikey had just outgrown his shoes and had needed a new pair the week before, and Aphrodite, the phone sex company, wouldn't pay till the end of the month. I kept dreading that sooner or later the benefits department would do some kind of official investigation of me and look at my bank statements, but it hadn't happened yet.
I'd plugged the mobile into the charger before going to bed, and when I picked it up I was glad to see that the battery was full, it had charged up completely before the power went. The landline was still taking incoming calls, so I could log in to the Aphrodite service via the mobile and carry on working when Mikey was asleep, and with it being April and warmer, with lighter evenings, there wouldn't be quite so much time huddling under a quilt on the sofa in the daytime, and waking up every other hour in the night to check that Mikey hadn't kicked his blankets off. We'd be OK for a few days with no electricity, we'd done it before, though not that often. I'd get my next lot of benefits on Tuesday, top everything up and we'd be fine again for a while.
If we'd had electricity, had lights on those last few nights, I think it might have been the death of us. I think we'd have been spotted. As it was, they would have seen the flat in darkness, the whole of Riley Court in darkness, and simply decided not to bother, even though I'm not sure that level of decision-making was even operating with them. Not at night, anyway.
North Woods Road is where the edge of Twilsdon sort of fizzles out, which is probably partly why we could afford to live there in the first place, most people didn't want to. It's uphill, the road disappearing into the woods themselves once you get over the other side. On the opposite side of the road it's mostly a big sweep of uninteresting green space, with three big tower blocks of Midwell Heights set in a rough triangle about fifty yards back from the kerb. Our side has the disused small industrial units at the top of the hill, then Kingsland Court, which is just like Riley Court: four flats set two on two and looking at first glance like two passable mid-century semis: white pebbledashed top halves, brick lower down, grey tiled roof, metal-framed windows. On either side, there are steep steps with solid brick walls leading up to the front doors of the upper flats; ours is on the left-hand, uphill side. Next down from us is Hightham Court, which was boarded up and empty when we first moved here and hasn't changed its status in the last eighteen months, and the road continues down with a couple of mean, half-occupied terraces, a stretch of nicer semis, another terrace, this one matched by the first one on the other side, until it hits the parade of shops at the bottom. About half the housing, probably less than half of it, is in reasonable repair; owner-occupied by people trying to fix the places up and make them nice, the rest of it is assorted shitholes that are rented on the cheap if they are rentable at all.
It was the shops we headed to on Friday morning, once I'd made up my mind that the last fiver I had would be best spent on phone credit, both for work purposes and so I had the wherewithal to phone for help or at least a cheering chat if I could think of anyone able to supply me with either thing. I decided not to bother with the buggy: walking down the hill and back would take a long time at Mikey's pace but time wasn't exactly something we were short of. Because quite a few of the houses and flats along North Woods Road are vacant, it's usually fairly quiet during the day, but I remember it did seem unnaturally quiet that Friday. There was no real unease in me, not yet, though I do remember noticing a broken window in one house that otherwise bore all the signs of being happily occupied: a well-tended front garden, bright curtains and a relatively new car parked in the drive.
The little off-licence and late shop I had meant to go into was closed, which raised my eyebrows, but I continued on to the Sainsburys Local with a silent curse or two. This meant passing the plant and tool hire shop, which involved what at the time seemed something only a silly skittish mare would worry about. Mikey was doing his usual 'Manhole cover! Manhole cover' at every one of those metal plates we encountered, whether it was an actual manhole cover or a plate for BT or the Water Board or somesuch thing, and I stopped for a moment to agree with him about the large square one outside Robsons Tools. It was only when I straightened up to coax him onwards that I looked, without really meaning to, into the big plate glass window and met the eyes of a mechanic standing right next to the glass and staring at me. It's a look most women experience now and again, a look which tells you as clearly as if he'd said so that the man looking at you wants to fuck you, and if it hurts you when he does it, so much the better. I turned my head and hurried Mikey on, not looking back, not even once. Bloody pig. But it wasn't like he would actually hurl himself through the glass and grab me, and surely any minute his boss would be behind him telling him to get on with his work, anyway.
Sainsburys was unusually quiet, with only two till operators instead of the half a dozen I would have expected on a Friday morning, and the shelves looked a bit on the picked-over side, what I could see of them. I didn't go round the store though, no point as there was no cash to buy anything. I just made for the kiosk and bought a top up voucher from the auburn-haired cashier who usually had a flow of campy, daft chatter for anyone who shopped there regularly. That day he didn't even crack a smile, and I almost asked him if anything was wrong, but then decided against it. I'd picked up a paper off a park bench a couple of days ago that had carried a few reports about a nasty new virus laying people out and suggesting that everyone should stock up on bottled water and not go out of the house more than they had to. I reckoned that this sort of rubbish might have been the reason for the shortage of staff, the closed offy and the rest of it, and therefore probably the reason why he wasn't his normal merry self: overwork or maybe even coming down with the bug, whatever it was.
On the way back up the hill, we saw a couple of old ladies plodding along with bags of cat food, deep in conversation, which briefly made me feel normal again. A car passed by at quite some speed, with a woman driving and a couple of kids bouncing about in the back, and the boot was clearly so rammed with bags and boxes that she'd had to tie it shut with rope.
As we drew near Riley Court, I noticed that the front door of 23a, my downstairs neighbour on the opposite side, was wide open, and when we got to the gate he came out, with a couple of suits draped over one arm and a laptop bag over his shoulder. I'd never actually known his name, though we were at least on nodding terms, but when he saw us he stopped in his tracks. He was a tall, lanky, light-skinned Afro-Carribbean man, with a closely-cropped head of black hair, and glasses, always rather more smartly dressed than seemed to fit in with this area.
'Hiya,' I said politely. 'Going away?'
'Getting out of here,' he said, a bit abruptly. He came past us, went to the blue Honda that I had never been sure was his, and opened the back door to deposit the bag and the clothes on the back seat, which already held quite a lot of luggage. He paused, one hand on the car roof, and looked at Mikey and me. 'Going to my mum's, in Folkestone. I don't know exactly what's going down, but what I always say is families should stick together, so I'm going back home. Maybe you two should get away, as well.'
'Fly away!' Mikey chirped, encouragingly. 'Get away fly away.' It surprised a bit of a smile out of the neighbour, but then he shrugged and got into the car. I made for the steps, with a nod to him. I sometimes wonder if he got to Folkestone, and what he found when he got there. I also wonder, or I did, quite a bit once I realised what was happening all around us, whether he might have taken Mikey and me with him, at least to the railway station or something, if I'd asked him to. If I'd known, if I'd not been so disengaged from the rest of the world, would I have asked him? I think I would have been more likely to dither, and cross my fingers, and maybe in the last extremity phone my dad to come and pick us up. But I've always been inclined to look on the bright side.
That Friday I still wasn't all that worried about anything more than being skint, and about having no electricity, and whether the gas would run out as well before I got any more cash in my bank account.
I knew there was some ham in the fridge, and though I had been keeping the fridge door shut to keep the inside cool as long as possible, I decided that the ham might as well be eaten before it went off, so I made Mikey a sandwich, and one for myself, and gave him a banana to follow, and when we'd had our lunch he was sleepy, so I popped him into his cot for a nap. He pulled a corner of his fleecy red blanket up to cover his nose and dropped off almost immediately. I stood watching him for a few minutes, thinking how much I loved him, my perfect, unexpected little son. He was looking less of a baby now that he was two and a bit. Over the last few weeks, he'd seemed to lengthen, and his vocabulary was increasing all the time. Olive-skinned like his half-Jamaican dad, with curly russet-brown hair and big melting brown eyes, he was genuinely beautiful. I ran a hand through my own hair, more of a muddy brown and kept short and spiky by chopping at it with the kitchen scissors when it started getting annoying, and went back into the living room.
It was a good opportunity to log on to Aphrodite and earn myself a few pennies. I did that, not without a wince of distaste. I'd been working for them since Mikey was a couple of months old, starting shortly after I'd sold my studio flat when I realised that Roy was never going to stop being an amiable loser, that there was no job I could get that would pay the mortgage on it and cover childcare, even if I'd wanted to leave my tiny, tiny baby with someone else so soon. I'd sold at a small profit, enough to keep us for a few months, but even though I was entitled to a few benefits for having given birth, there would have to be something else I could do that would bring some more money in. And that it would have to be something that was easy and also not bothered about what I did or said about the little bit of money they paid me. Because for all the general advice about only getting pregnant off rich men when you were in settled relationships, that wasn't what had happened.
Prior to getting pregnant, I'd been doing a mixed bag of fun jobs, bits of PR, a little film extra work and temping to fill in the gaps; I'd simply never been very career-minded despite my degree, and only managed to make the move into home ownership due to a legacy. I hadn't been bothered about talking dirty for a living at the beginning, but whether it was the endless news coverage of the massive increase in domestic violence and how it was down to women not knowing their proper roles any more, making me hyper-aware and miserable, or whether there really were a lot more genuinely woman-hating men out there, the job was getting less and less bearable. Still, it was something I could do from home when Mikey was asleep, didn't require any outlay other than keeping the phone bill paid or at least paying it before they got so narky they cut off incoming calls as well, and Aphrodite never kept me waiting for my wages.

While I was waiting for the first caller, I made a quick inventory of the cupboards. I did always try to have a bit of stuff stockpiled against skint weeks like this one, though I bought fresh food as much as possible. I'd filled up the fruit bowl at the start of the week, and I had spuds and onions in the vegetable rack as well, and there were eggs in the fridge that would be OK for a day or two even with the power off. There were a few tins: soup, beans, tomatoes, spaghetti hoops, one small can of tuna, some of those mini tins of fruit; there was half a bag of rice left, and four or five jars of stage 3 baby food, that I kept as a backup for Mikey if he was offcolour, or if we were going out somewhere it would be difficult to get food for him when he was hungry. There was some pasta, and most of a loaf of bread as well.
It wasn't the first time we'd been that broke – I never was the world's greatest budgeter, and though Roy did send a few quid from time to time we could never exactly depend on him. I made a bit of a face at myself in the mirror that hung over the mantlepiece. It was probably just penniless underclass blues, compounded by the fact that more and more people seemed to be moving out of North Woods Road every day these days, and almost every newspaper I saw seemed to have another headline about the poor, especially feckless single mothers, and what a drain they were on everyone else, and how Things Were Going To Change.
The phone rang, and I hurried to grab it, crossing my fingers to hear the familiar dry hiss and recorded voice announcing 'Caller incoming' which would mean an Aphrodite customer rather than some coldcalling salesprat or a debt collector or whatever. It was a customer, at least I suppose you could call him that, because when I did my usual husky murmer to inform the caller that I was right here, lovely Linda, ready and waiting and sooo glad to hear from him, a wierdly thickened voice informed me that 'All you bitches will get yours, soon. You've got it coming.' Then he hung up. I stood there with the phone in my hand and my mouth open, telling myself aloud not to be silly.
It wasn't the first time I'd had a nutter, of course: I was well used to the ones who hadn't read the small print explaining that Aprhodite's various lines were for fun and entertainment only rather than a way to contact a professional sex worker who would actually come round and jerk them off, or were so fucked up that the only kind of conversation they could have with a woman was one they were paying for, but there was something seriously creepy about those few grunted words. I knew it wasn't me he was really talking to – Lovely Linda wasn't me, she was a non-person I'd constructed, a fantasy wet dream who consisted only of my voice, or at least a version of my voice. The real me, Keziah Smith – most people call me Kizzy – is a chunky, scruffy brunette while Linda described herself as a redhead with huge boobs and a love of high heels and black silk lingerie.
I paced about a bit, and hoped the next caller would either be a regular or your average Big Dick who wanted a generic few minutes about stockings and blowjobs. There were no more calls for quite a while, and I was almost beginning to wonder if there was something up with the whole network when the phone did ring again, and it was a Big Dick, who I managed to get to shoot his load about three minutes before I heard Mikey stirring in the bedroom and quickly logged out.

As far as Mikey and I were concerned, nothing much happened for the next couple of days. It was the weekend, but that wasn;t a big deal to us, at least not when there was no spare cash. What I didn't know at the time was that weekend was the tipping point, the stage at which nothing could be done to put things back to normal. I can't get my head round how many people died in the course of that 48 hours, whether they killed themselves or someone else killed them, or whether they just got sick and died of it, of the weird side effects of Rapilust and the other supplements that were still being described as some kind of virus in the last few news reports that went out. I try not to think about it too much. I know a lot of people were simply upping and fleeing over the week and a half before the government stopped ignoring the problem and started taling about evacuations officially, those in households that were clear of Rapilust users, and probably one or two where the symptoms hadn't shown yet even though they had copped a dose of the really bad version. Of course some of those who tried to flee got caught up and quarantined, and a lot more actually tried to obey the instructions to report for quarantine and treatment and all that jazz, for all the good it did them. Because there were the fires and the rampages, and the fact that most people didn't know who was dangerous and who wasn't, and of course a lot of those with official status were every bit as dangerous as the rest.
Because it rained almost without stopping, or at least keeping up a thin continuous drizzle, we didn't go out. I'd kept the spare laptop battery fully charged, so I was able to make use of Disney DVDs to keep Mikey amused some of the time, and we built elaborate brick towers and knocked them down, and sang songs, and Mikey was developing a degree of self-sufficiency with regard to playing, even then, so I piddled about with bits of housework, made notes to myself about updating my cv and read a book or two. Also, with the downstairs neighbour gone, I felt less worried about shushing Mikey when he wanted to charge round the room being a fire engine: the old dear who lived on the top floor on the other side was stone deaf, and the couple in the ground floor flat were away. Thinking about it, they'd probably done the same as the other bloke, spotted the way things were going and decided to get the hell out of town, though that didn't occur to me then.
By Monday, we were getting a bit stir crazy. There was still no money, so toddler group was out of the question. The last few weeks we'd been, there had been hardly anyone there, anyway. And last time, there had been a bit of an atmosphere: two of the other mothers looked like they'd been in the wars: one had a black eye, and the other one had a bandaged wrist; they both seemed miserable, and I didn't like to ask them what had happened, though the play leader did have a hushed conversation with the black-eyed one. I'd thought at the time that one or both of them might have taken a bashing off their partners, and felt both sorry for them and angry at the same time: there had been talk everywhere for months about how much it was on the increase these days. The papers seemed to alternate between women columnists saying that men were all scum and something had to be done about it, and rather more male ones blaming it all on feminism and only just not saying that battered women generally deserved it.
It had never happened to me: violent was the last thing you'd say about Roy. Flaky was the word I generally used, to myself and others, but I didn't hate or despise him, he just was what he was, and I had no more wish to tie myself to a couple-relationship with him, than he did with me. I would have preferred it if he'd at least stayed in the same country as us, but I wasn't prepared to waste energy on making demands to that effect.
He left the UK when Mikey was eight months old and I can't say I wasn't disappointed and a bit miserable. Because there had been some good times before that; times when Roy actually felt like socialising with the pair of us. I mustn't be harsh on him though, it was never a case of me loving him and him doing me wrong. The two of us just happened to get a little careless one pissed up night and Mikey was the result.

On Monday morning Mikey was clearly fed up. We were out of longlife milk, so his breakfast had been bread and butter – and after several days the bread was less than fabulous, and the last of the biscuits I'd bought the week before hadn't proved that much of an appealing alternative. He'd eaten a chopped up apple, so I didn't feel I was starving him, but he was sulky and cross. By late morning I'd tried everything I could think of to cheer him up; singing, scribbling with crayons on the inside of a torn up cereal packet, offering to be a horsey and let him ride round the living room on my back, but nothing seemed to work. Looking out of the window, I noticed the sky had cleared and the rain had stopped, so I thought we would head over to the little playground at Midwell Heights inbetween the tower blocks across the road. While I think it was mainly intended for whatever kids lived in those blocks, we'd been there before and no one had actually chased us away. I'd even had a conversation or two with other mothers there from time to time, the usual something and nothing, how old is yours, isn't he or she cute, have you got any older ones, potty training, night waking...
'Come on, big boy,' I said, getting his jacket off the coat rack. 'Let's hit the swings!' He scrambled to his feet, instantly galvanised. 'Wings! Wings!' he yelled, clapping his hands. I glanced at the buggy, and decided against it, we were only going over the road and up the hill a bit, really.
I'd never been thrilled with this particular playground , which was small and as rundown as most of the rest of North Woods Road. In a normal week, ie when I had a little cash, we preferred to get the bus from the bottom of the hill to the park in West Twilsdon, which had a duckpond as well as a much better range of swings, slides and roundabouts. But I was surprised by how grim Midwell Heights seemed that day, even though the sun was at least trying to shine. There was no sign of anyone else: usually we'd encounter at least a couple of people going in or out of the flats, and if there were no small kids in the playground, often as not there would be some teenagers sitting on the benches or the bigger swing. Mikey, who'd been chattering away as we crossed the road and headed up the winding path that led between the blocks to the central court where the playground was, fell quiet as we passed into the shadow of the nearest tower. Looking up, I noticed quite a few broken windows dotting its sides, and wondered if more people had been moved out recently. I thought back to Saturday night, when my sleep had been disturbed once or twice by noises that I couldn't quite identify, and tried not to shiver. It was a passably nice spring day, and even if there was some kind of nasty bug around that was keeping a lot of people to their beds, neither of us two had any symptoms of anything. And to think that the tower blocks were kind of looming over us was just daft, projecting my fears in a random fashion. They were set round the playground in a way that did mean it was always slightly in the shadow of at least one of them, but that had never bothered me in the past. Mikey needed some air and some fun, I shouldn't let a fit of irrational vapours spoil his chances at having those things.
Once we reached the little square of pressed rubber flooring with its collection of stuff to swing on, climb up and slide down, I took Mikey's reins off and let him choose what he wanted to play on first. Normally this would be his cue to run round and round a few times before settling on either the swing or the small blue roundabout: this time he stood still, looking around him uneasily.
'Go on lovie, let's play,' I said encouragingly, and after a moment or two he made for the luridly purple elephant that rocked back and forth on a spring. I helped him up onto it and he began lurching to and fro with a creaking noise that sounded horribly loud. I realised my arms were covered in goosebumps and wondered what on earth was the matter with me. I just couldn't rid myself of the idea that we were being watched by hostile eyes, which was something I had honestly never felt before.
Suddenly there was a grating squeal of metal from somewhere high up behind me, and a woman's voice shouted angrily, 'Hi, you! You mad cow, get out of here! Get out now!'
'Whatsat, Mummy?' Mikey said, turning his head from side to side and trying to see where the sound had come from.
'Just a cross lady,' I managed to say. I was genuinely scared, just like that, not simply uneasy but about two millimetres away from outright terror, and though there were times in the past when I might have given whoever it was a mouthful about public rights of way and all that, today all my instincts were screaming at me to do exactly what she said. I lifted him off the elephant, and was about to slip his reins back on when I heard a creak and a bang, and as I turned round with Mikey in my arms, I saw that the door at the bottom of the furthest tower block was open, and someone was coming out. A man, quite a big man, and I almost called out to ask him what his problem was, and then my panic was up and big and raging within me. There were three steps down from the door to the ground, and he stomped down them in a way that was somehow horribly alien, the rhythm of his steps all wrong. His face was a dark shade of red, a wrong shade of red. For a split second I wondered if I was dreaming.
'Cunt!' he said in a kind of slobbering growl. 'Cunt. Come here, cunt. Got something for you.' Mikey's reins fell from my hand, and above came a crash of splintering glass and the sound of a woman screaming. Infected by my fear, Mikey started to scream as well, and I hugged him to me and just ran. I remember thinking that there must be more of them, whoever they were, and if they came out of the next tower block as well they would be between me and the road and we'd never get out.
Adrenaline gives you extra strength, but it's still no joke trying to run and carry a two year old when you weren't exactly at the peak of fitness beforehand. It flashed through my head that I'd run faster alone but that thought almost made me throw up with horror – nothing could make me leave Mikey or put my safety ahead of his. I could feel his coat pulling up his back as I clutched him, thrashing and shrieking in fright, and another awful thought shot into my mind – that he'd slip right out of his coat and I'd drop him by mistake. My chest and shoulders were starting to hurt as we reached the main path, but reaching it somehow helped me find the energy to put on more of a spurt, surely we couldn't be attacked on the open road, surely someone else would come along and do something to help.
We got to the pavement and I risked a glance behind me. No pursuit. I staggered to a halt, still hanging on to Mikey: much as my arms were starting to ache I didn't dare put him down. I took a longer look back and saw that the man had fallen or lain down on the grass and was kicking his legs in a horribly jerky, slow motion way, head down, but there was nobody else in sight. I adjusted my grip on Mikey, whose screams had faded to frightened soft sobbing, and crossed the road at a kind of stumbling trot. When we got back to Riley Court, I stopped again before actually going through the front gate. There was no sign of anyone or anything stirring among the tower blocks, and the angles they were built at meant that it wasn't really possible to see the playground from our place – or to see us from the playground. I cuddled Mikey tightly to me, kissing his head, rubbing his back and trying to sooth him, it's all right, it's all over, Mummy's here, Mummy loves you. Slowly, he settled down, snuggling against me, his little hands patting my cheeks.
Whatever it was, it was done with. I carried him up to the flat and sat for a while on the sofa with him on my lap, singing quietly to him until he fell asleep and my own trembling slowly stopped.
I wondered if I ought to phone the police or something, but I wasn't going to be able to show them any actual evidence of what the man had done. And after all, what had he done that could be considered a crime? Shouted at us? Scared us? I couldn't even genuinely claim that he'd chased us, let alone committed any kind of assault. And anyway, if the police sent some junior Community Officer out to take a statement, I might end up with Social Services on my back, demanding to know why there was no money on the electricity meter but a bottle of white wine in the back of the fridge, and tutting over the general untidiness of the flat.
I laid Mikey carefully on the sofa and tiptoed into the bedroom to get his blanket and cover him with it. He normally had his nap after lunch, not before, but I might as well leave him to sleep for the moment. I didn't feel like dealing with any Aphrodite callers though, so I went and got a book and read for the next hour. I'd pretty much convinced myself that I'd got into a panic about nothing – just some drunk arsehole having a tantrum – by the time Mikey woke up again. All that stuff about the man's body shape and red distorted face, I must have imagined it, surely.

We spent the afternoon doing some washing, which Mikey found quite entertaining as it involved putting the dirty clothes into a bath full of cold water with the last gasp of a little tube of travel detergent, and I let him throw the clothes into the water one by one; this was mixed with a few experiments relating to the appropriate use of a potty, partly motivated by the fact that nappies were another thing we were running low on. It took quite a while but eventually the bulk of our clothing was wrung out and dripping over the folding rack in the bath, and I was able to shepherd Mikey back into the living room which is what I call the main area of the flat, no barrier between it and the kitchen, where he could watch me cooking rice with a couple of spoonfuls of pesto and a chopped onion, food supplies being seriously low by now.
I put him to bed at his usual time, but it took a couple more stories and songs than previous nights to get him settled to sleep, by which time the light had gone and even sitting right by the living room window I couldn't see to read, so I got the wine out of the fridge and poured a glassful. . In the dark, I thought back to the man at the flats again and shivered. Cunt. Come here cunt. It's not that I'm bothered by bad language – I was a phone sex operator. I'd had a client who wanted to call me cunt for several minutes, but he used to apologise afterwards and say he was sure I was a nice girl. There were weird quirks out there, sure, but over the past few months there had been more and more who were outright vile to deal with. No work meant no pay, but at the same time the idea of sitting in the dark waiting to see if the phone would ring, and if it would be another nutter shouting and threatening, was just not something I could face. Moving carefully so as not to bash into anything, I made my way into the bedroom, peeled off my jeans, socks and knickers, yanked off my t-shirt and got out of my bra. I had to find my nightwear, or at least the big baggy t-shirt I'd been using for the purpose, which was tangled up with the bedding, by touch alone, but it wasn't too much of a problem, and I was soon in bed, flat on my back, starfishing and staring up at nothing. It was only about half past eight, but I found myself feeling quite ready to sleep, thinking comforting thoughts about the fact that tomorrow there would be some money, and I could buy fresh food, top up the electricity, maybe even pay off the bill for the phone and internet so those would be put back on.
I was woken up at some point, not that long after I'd dropped off, by Mikey whimpering in his cot. Groggy and a bit disorientated, I floundered out of bed, dropped on my knees beside his cot and slid my hand in through the bars to pet and stroke him. He hushed for a few minutes but then started moaning again. My eyes had adjusted to the darkness by now so I could see him as he sat upright and yelped in a way that suggested he was seconds short of indulging in a full blown howl.
Again, though I didn't know it at the time, what I did next was something that improved our chances of survival no end: I got up, lifted him out of the cot and took him into bed with me. I was generally fairly strict about keeping him to his own cot at night, but somehow tonight I just didn't want to, I actually felt I needed the warmth of his little sleepsuited body in my arms, cuddled up close.
We both fell asleep again, at least for a little while, but then I remember rousing up, confused and instantly terrified. I could hear screams, agonised screams, not loud as they weren't that close, but piercing enough to wake me, and once I was awake I heard a crash and a hoarse roaring of several voices. Mikey stirred, and I held him close and rubbed his back, murmuring to him soothingly despite my own nervousness. Further crashes came, and then Mikey did wake up and started wriggling violently.
'Shh, love, shh Mikey,' I told him, trying to keep my own voice low and level. 'It's all right, we're all right, be quiet as mice, we're safe in bed.' Part of me wanted to get up, go and look out of the living room window, maybe jump out of the bedroom window and run away, another part of me , the more sensible part, wanted to stay right where I was, holding my son, shutting my eyes and hoping that whatever it was would all go away. There were a couple of sharp popping bangs that sounded more than a little like gunshots, and more screams, and the rumble of engines: I clung to Mikey, whispering over and over again to shhh, stay quiet, it would all be fine. Amazingly, he went back to sleep in my arms after a while, but I lay there rigid, listening, straning my ears for any indication that whatever was happening out there might be moving closer. I don't know how long it went on or how much of that awful night I did spend sleeping and reliving the terror in my dreams. But I do remember thinking how glad I was that the washing we'd done was on the rack in the bath rather than draped over the balcony, that there was nothing about Riley Court to suggest that it was occupied.
I must have slept some of the time, must have drifted into unconsciousness, because so much of that night now seems like a curious fragmented blur of terror and boredom. At some point I fancied I heard someone stomping around in the front garden, but to this day I'm not sure if there was ever anyone there. I know I inched the duvet up so that Mikey and I were completely covered by it, and lay there with my teeth locked tight together, holding my breath till I couldn't hold it any longer, but I'm pretty sure that even when I did sleep, no one actually tried to mount the steps. Then I remember the light starting to fill the bedroom, chilly and grey but definitely dawn, and silence, and then finally sinking into proper sleep.

SkinnyVanillaLatte Sat 16-Jun-12 09:39:08

solidgoldbrass,it kept me reading and I want to know what happens next. I really want to know what happens next.

You've got to pursue this and keep going with it. Good luck!

(out of curiousity,do you know now how the story will unfold or will it develop as you go along?)

I sort of know where I'm going with it but it's all over the place at the moment. Am up to chapter 6, anyway. So far there has been a woman who thinks she killed her husband and a ram-raid on Mothercare grin and the narrator got food poisoning too. Anyone want another chapter?

crescentmoon Sat 16-Jun-12 16:09:25

i ended up watching until episode 8 of the show Jericho, absolutely brilliant DH also was riveted. thanks so much for the tip, cant wait till i watch at 30 odd!

There are two versions of Down to a Sunless Sea - one with a "happy" ending and one with a "sad" ending. I am still searching for one with the sad ending, so if anyone has one/finds one please let me know - all I want is to know what the actual last couple of chapters say grin I know sort of what happens, but have never actually read it, as my copy (which took some getting hold of confused ) has the "happy" ending.
I got a free book on Kindle recently called "The Old Man and the Wasteland" - it's more of a novella or "long short story" than a full book, but it was ever so good. I really enjoyed it.
And I second anything by HM Hoover, I've loved her work ever since they first came out when I was small.
There's a Mammoth Book of Apocalyptic Fiction on Amazon too, that's pretty cheap on Kindle and is stuffed with some really good short stories.

SkinnyVanillaLatte Sat 16-Jun-12 18:10:12

sgb I want to read the whole thing so get it written and published!! grin

PomBear that's interesting to know about 'Down to a sunless sea'!

I get really frustrated with the things I see only on kindle - books,I need books!
I'd seriously love a kindle,but then I'd be buggered as (just like with mp3 players) I don't understand how you do the magic bit that gets anything on it!! blush confused.

Just to make everyone jealous,I have bright shiny copies of Rhiannon Frater's 'Fighting to Survive' and 'Siege' on my coffee table ready to sink my teeth into when the kids are settled in front of a DVD in bed later.

R2PeePoo Sat 16-Jun-12 20:02:14

Thats excellent sgb. I'd buy it. I want to know what happens next!

Skinny- do you have the first one 'The first days' or have you read that one already?

I'd intrigued now by the sad ending of Down to a Sunless sea.

I'm reading Feed, thanks to this thread. Its pretty good but not exactly top quality writing.

SkinnyVanillaLatte Sat 16-Jun-12 20:06:31

R2,yes,I read and enjoyed 'The first days'.

'Feed' is good,not earth shattering,but certainly interesting enough to keep me reading.

SkinnyVanillaLatte Sat 16-Jun-12 20:11:11

There is another after 'Feed',the name of which escapes me (possibly 'Deadline'?) I have her latest one 'Blackout' on order too.

R2PeePoo Sat 16-Jun-12 20:16:40

Yes, Deadline, I borrowed that one too and am on the reservation list at the library for Blackout.

There are two other Frater books as well I think- two collections of stories but I haven't read those yet.

Skinny the Kindle is really, really easy to get books onto honestly. I don't have an iAnything and can barely tie my laces never mind "work stuff" but I manage my Kindle easily. It's self explanatory when you first turn it on, the user guide is on the Kindle, and in the box in print, and it just does its thing grin
I got a 3G one because we don't have wifi and I like being able to download a new book from anywhere I happen to be, so I can never ever not have something to read grin
I got the Kindle because we ran out of room in the house for any more books, and so many of them I would only read once, and have no intention of ever reading again. Now I can have any one I want and no space taken up.

SkinnyVanillaLatte Sun 17-Jun-12 09:16:51

Thanks Pom - I didn't realise that.Very encouraging.I can see a Kindle on the horizon now,unless I want to end up on 'The Hoarder next door',picking my way through books and peeing in a bucket 'cos I can't get into the bathroom grin.

The iWorld we live in definitely left me behind somewhere.

AnyFucker Sun 17-Jun-12 19:00:55

sgb I guess there is much of what you write that is semi-autobographical, yes ? smile

I read your chapter. I like the spare, straightforward style. I would read your book.

AnyFucker Sun 17-Jun-12 19:01:23


hattifattner Sun 17-Jun-12 19:08:07

I found this on pinterest the other day - type in the name of a book you have liked and it suggests others you might also like.

AF: Well, I sort of drew on elements of my life for that book (though not to malign my DS' dad, who is a good chap and hasn't vanished on us. Nor have we ever been chased out of a playground by a zombie.)
Thanks everyone else for kind words, too. I shall try to crack on with more of the book.

SkinnyVanillaLatte Mon 18-Jun-12 09:14:26

Not kind words,sgb,but true words. When you are further down the line you will have to let us know the title or use solidgoldbrass as a pseudonym.....grin

SkinnyVanillaLatte Mon 18-Jun-12 09:21:12

hattifattner.That is absolutely brilliant - and even I can manage to do that!

I am genuinely excited grin

The poor library catalogue looks at me like> >>> confused <<< this,when I type in the more random zombie novels.

hurry up solid - I came back for Chapter 2 and well, it's not here. This is not good enough - you've cracked they key element of writing - I read the first little bit and <stamps foot> I wanna know what happens next
go on, get on with it then... grin quicker than that please grin
Oh and one of my DSs is a Mikey so please don't let anything too awful happen to him!

OK, here you are, Chapter Two.

When Mikey started bouncing on my painfully full bladder I realised that it was definitely morning. Apart from his merry, unscathed chatter, there was no sound to be heard, and I almost told myself I'd dreamed all the racket last night, though really I knew I hadn't. Gently putting him off me, I got up and made for the bathroom, snagging my old blue robe on the way and pulling it on against the morning's chill. Once I'd peed, I realised that I'd made a decision at some point in the long horrors of the night: Mikey and I were getting out of Riley Court today. I went and got my mobile off the kitchen worktop and discovered that I'd left the wretched thing switched on all night and drained the battery. I tossed it onto the table with a muffled growl and started hunting out things for breakfast.
My mother and father hadn't quite got over the shock of having a non-white grandson, but given that there was clearly something going badly wrong with the whole area, I was fairly sure they wouldn't slam the door in our faces if Mikey and I turned up unexpected and asked to stay for a couple of nights. OK, maybe even a bit longer, if we had to. Maybe they would have had a complete change of heart and welcome us unreservedly. I knew that, even with enough money to get the electricity back on, I couldn't face another night in the flat just then. At some level it wasn't even down to the disturbances, or that business in the playground yesterday: over the last six months or so I'd been feeling more and more unhappy and uneasy, and coming to the conclusion that we'd probably be a lot better off moving somewhere else, even if it was back to my parents' It wasn't going to get any better while we were living in Riley Court, no matter how hard I tried. I would still be a single mother, with little or no proper work available to me. I'd just been stalling, partly out of inertia, partly out of misplaced pride: I'd made a home for the two of us, after all, and I didn't want to go cap in hand to anyone.When you're just trying to get through from day to day, the rest of the world seems fairly irrelevant, but I hadn't missed the fact that everyone, everywhere was struggling, and I don't think I was ever guilty of anything worse than just hoping things would get better.
Breakfast for Mikey was a softening, just-about-to-turn banana sliced into a bowl of cornflakes that I'd moistened with tap water and dolloped with a spoonful of honey gouged out of a dubious-looking jar from the back of the fridge; he ate about two thirds of it, not without complaint. There really was sod all else edible left apart from two jars of emergency baby food, both of which were meat and tomato based so not at all breakfast-friendly. For myself I just managed a handful of dry cornflakes and the last apple, though I gave Mikey several bites of that.
Of course, none of the washing I'd done yesterday was dry, or anything like dry. The jeans and grey t-shirt I'd been wearing were grubby-looking, and the t-shirt didn't smell particularly fresh. I didn't want to present myself to my parents looking like a total dosser, so I slung them into the laundry basket. My wardrobe was a lot more limited than it had been in the past, mostly because I had sold all those clothes that I thought I might be able to get a few quid for, not needing much for a life that was mostly spent in the flat or at toddler groups. My clothes were mainly jeans, shirts and jumpers in various states of mild disrepair – I had a few band t-shirts which I would put on for the rare occasions I met up with friends, usually at some informal house party with other kids, or an afternoon in some pub with a beer garden or kids' play zone – and the only ones that weren't dripping away over the bath were the most utterly wrecked and barely wearable. However, I'd hung on to one moderately smart outfit on the offchance of a job interview at some point: plain grey bootlegs and a black and red flower-printed shirt. I warmed up a pan of water on the cooker so I could give both Mikey and myself a proper wash.
At least he still had some clean clothes in the drawer, we'd not long had a bundle of stuff from the Outrgrown Please Rehome box at toddler group: having got him into one outfit, I took the other two sets of little tops and tracky trousers, and a couple of sleepsuits and stuck them in the rucksack I used as a change bag and general totearound, along with the four nappies and pack of wipes that were left, my last couple of pairs of clean knickers and socks, a frumpy floral nightie that I hardly ever wore but had kept in case of, oh, don't know, but it would do for staying at my folks, better than the shapeless old shirt I'd been wearing in bed the past week, our toothbrushes, the little round leather box that contained my two or three bits of decent jewellery that I hadn't been able to bring myself to sell or pawn, and the pocket photo album that contained half a dozen shots of Roy, some of them with him holding baby Mikey and one with all three of us together. I chucked in my mobile and its charger as well, thinking I would get some more credit on the way. Then I had to heat another pan of water to wash Mikey's plate, bowl, cutlery and cup before sticking them in a carrier bag with the jars of food and shoving them in the sack along with his red blanket and the book of nursery rhymes he loved. I got another carrier bag and gathered up his three toy trains, his singalong plastic radio and Bida, a lurid orange eight-legged velveteen creature that I thought was more octopus than spider, but which Mikey had named when he got it for his first birthday. Bida was sometimes indispensable for naps, sometimes disregarded on the floor, but I tended to take it with us whenever we were going to be out for more than a few hours.
Almost as an afterthought, I took an empty Oasis bottle from the recycling, rinsed it thoroughly and filled it with tap water; that went in the bag with the toys as well.
Mikey had been shoving a sturdy plastic fire engine along the floor while I was packing our belongings, but when he saw me putting my keys and purse into the pocket of my grey parka, he got up and toddled towards me.
'Go out?' he asked, and then began looking around. 'Mikey reins?' I started to look for them myself, then remembered, with a horrible destablizing shock, that I'd dropped them in the bloody playground yesterday. The thought of going back to look for them crossed my mind and a great shiver went through me, to the point that I actually had to flop down on the sofa for a minute or two. I scooped Mikey up and pulled him onto my lap, rocking him while my trembling slowed down. No way on earth were we going back to that playground. Not in a million years. Mikey wriggled, wanting to get down.
'Mikey reins,' he said again, and I gently let him go.
'Mikey's reins lost,' I said. 'Mummy will buy new ones.' I mentally added it to the shopping list in my head, which already included a stop at the charity shop to pick up a change of clothes for myself, it was never any problem finding boring-but-OK tops and bottoms in the charries, and it was about time I allowed myself at least one more pair of strides and maybe a couple of blouses.
'Want to go and see Nanny and Granpa, Mikey? We're going to visit them. Go on the train for a visit.'
Mikey considered, then grinned. 'Nanny and Granpa!' he exulted. There was something reassuring in his obvious pleasure at the idea: my parents might not put themselves out much to come and see us, but on the occasions when we did meet up – the last one having been at Christmas time – they had been more than forthcoming with hugs and kisses and treats.
'Let's get the buggy, lovie,' I said, getting to my feet. 'And your coat and shoes.'
I carried on talking as we did the coat, shoes, wipe your nose, fill my parka pocket with torn off sheets of kitchen roll, but when it came to actually opening the front door, I had to grit my teeth briefly. Though I hadn't heard any sounds that might suggest anyone might be outside or in the garden, lurking with malevolent intent, it occurred to me that trying to negotiate child, buggy and bags down the steep steps would be a few minutes of visibility and vulnerability, but I told myself to snap the fuck out of it. We'd go down the hill to Sainsburys and I'd draw out the whole of the week's benefits at the cashpoint, get the bus from the other side of the traffic lights to Twilsdon town centre, which was a good half-hour away, get a meal in one of the cafes in the precinct, quick tour of the shops for the bits and bobs we needed, then up to the station for a train to Brighton.
I'm not sure that a part of me wasn't aware as we descended to street level that it wasn't going to happen the way I planned. At the bottom of the steps I unfolded the buggy for Mikey to climb in – at the last minute he'd insisted on bringing the fire engine with him and was clutching it tightly, lifting the little ladder up and down. I hung the plastic bag with his other toys from one of the buggy handles and out of the gate we went.
The first indication of something really badly wrong came about forty yards down the hill, in the shape of the first terrace of houses on the other side of the road. Six out of eight of them had their ground floor windows broken, and two of those had their front doors standing open. I started to push the buggy a little faster. Actually, quite a lot faster, and Mikey gave a little whoop of excitement: 'Whee! Mikey go fast!' A little further down, on our side, there was a big four-wheel drive parked on the paved-over front garden of one of the houses with its doors open. As we drew closer to it, I started to see the debris of clothing and oddments scattered around it, and that its windscreen had a huge crack across it. I thought the bundle I could see in the flowerbed on the far side was more clothing at first, but then I realised I was looking at a body, a woman's body.
You'll probably think I'm the world's most selfish, pathetic coward when I say that it never occurred to me to stop, go over and see if she was alive or not. What I actually did was say, 'Mikey, hold on tight, hold on really tight.' Which was ridiculous as there was nothing for him to hold on to. And then I tipped the buggy back so it was on its rear wheels and just ran.
I had to stop when we reached the first of the shops, puffing and gasping with a tearing stitch in my side. I slumped over the buggy handles, barely hearing Mikey say 'Again, again, go fast again,' though it did sink in that at least so far my son wasn't frightened, and a little bit of me was able to feel relieved by that. I think I'd thought that once I got to the parade of shops there would be someone there, someone who would listen, be shocked, phone the police and take control, but it was almost immediately obvious that this wasn't going to happen. Everything was shuttered up and in darkness.
When my breathing had steadied, I started moving again, wheeling the buggy normally this time, past the closed shops, up to the traffic lights and turning right along the road into town. We were nearly at the bus shelter, though I was already sure that there would be no bus to catch, when I heard the rumbling growl of a motorbike, coming up fast behind us and then slowing. I glanced frantically at the houses, but saw no signs of life, and there was nowhere to run and no way to outrun a bike, and then the motorbike had stopped in the middle of the road, engine still throbbing. I turned slowly to look at it, and saw two riders, the one on the pillion too small to be anything but a child. The front rider put booted feet down on the road and pushed back the helmet visor, raising both hands in a gesture that was less surrender than 'I'm harmless'. I didn't do the same because that would have meant letting go of Mikey's buggy.
'I won't hurt you,' the rider called, his voice muffled by the helmet. 'It's OK, I never touched the stuff.'I'm clean. I know I am.
'Ok,' I said, completely bemused by what he might mean.
'Are you trying to get to the coast on foot? Really?' he asked. I was disconcerted, wondering how on earth he knew that we were going to Brighton, so I just mumbled something non-commital. What I could see of his face looked nice, with kind eyes.
'I wish I could offer you a lift,' he said. 'But my daughter – I've got to try and get her away. Look love, my best advice to you is to steal a car and head for Dover, the ferries might still be running, OK?' He paused, and raised his hand to his visor, obviously about to depart, then he shook his helmeted head slightly.
'If you can't do that, get under cover at night. They're mostly out at night now, as far as I know.'
The child behind him said 'Daddy...' in a hesitant voice; I could barely hear her as her crash helmet covered her mouth and lower jaw. Daddy held his visor up a moment longer.
'Good luck love. Can't say no more.'
Then he shut himself back in his helmet, revved the engine and the bike took off with a thunderous roar.
'Who that man?' Mikey enquired, leaning forward in his harness. 'What man say?'
I really didn't know how to answer, so I started to push the buggy again. 'Never mind, lovie,' I murmured. 'Just a man. He says we should hurry up.'
We carried on past the houses with no further interruptions, and I tried to organise my thoughts. We'd walked past a body and a lot of smashed houses. The biker had told me to steal a car and get to Dover, which was rather drastic advice, even though it was clear that the situation was way beyond normal round here. The implication was that he, at least, was planning to cross the Channel to get away from the problem. And that the problem involved 'touching stuff', though I had no idea what that meant.
'Doomsday,' I muttered to myself, but Mikey, who was chatting to his fire engine, either didn't hear or didn't understand. I wondered about turning round and going back to Riley Court, to wait... but to wait for what? Something very very bad had obviously happened, and might well still be happening, and maybe the reason we hadn't seen anyone else was because the ones who were still alive were holed up in their houses with their fingers crossed, and tinned food and bottled water. But there was no food in our flat, no electricity, no phone to dial 999 and scream for help. If we got into Twilsdon we could maybe go to the police station, maybe there would be officers standing by a barricade directing people to the church hall or the sports centre where they could get soup and sandwiches or something. There might at least be posters explaining what was going on. I might be able to contact my parents, as well, and reassure them that Mikey and I were alive – something as big as this must have had them frantic with worry about us. But then why hadn't they rung me? Later I would speculate that maybe the phones had stopped working over the weekend, but just then I didn't think of it. I suppose it was because I was hoping that whatever had happened had only happened in Twilsdon, or at least only in the outer suburbs of London.
Get under cover at night, the biker had said. It was about midday, so we had eight hours before darkness, we'd be in town in an hour or so. We'd get to town first. That was the first thing to do, and I'd worry about the next thing to do when we got there.
It was quite a warm day, and I was soon feeling uncomfortably sweaty as I carried on along the pavement. I unzipped my parka, and thought about shrugging it off and tying it round my waist, but it was long enough that it would be a nuisance.
'Drink!' Mikey said suddenly. 'Want a drink.' I remembered the bottle of water, retrieved it and uncapped it. I had to stop to take the rucksack off and ferret in it for his sippy cup, and though I knew I was being excessively paranoid to worry about stopping even for a few moments, I had chill prickles at the back of my neck as I poured some of the water into the cup, closed the lid and gave it to Mikey. I took one moderate gulp of it myself, as well, but no more. However, nothing moved, nothing stirred, there were no sounds from anything other than a bird or two, chirping somewhere off to the left. I thought briefly back to the dead woman in the garden, then pushed the thought away, hard.
Some time after that, we rounded the bend in the road that led to the shopping precinct, and I saw that a car had mounted the pavement and smashed through the shutters of the betting shop. Burger King, the florists, the estate agents and Lloyds Bank were all closed, but as we drew level with the bank I noticed the hole-in-the-wall was operational, so I paused there, got out my card and withdrew my hundred pounds. I've still got three of those twenty pound notes somewhere, even now.
The precinct is pedestrianised, with a road leading off to the left into a car park, and the shops in a T-shape with a wide paved space in between them, and little benches and tubs of usually-dispirited plants at the join of the crossbar to the stem. On the far side are a couple of blocks of flats, and I glanced up at them as we made our way forwards. On the doors of what I thought was the bin shed, someone had sprayed 'Gustav Fredericks Burn In Hell For This. I halted the pushchair, gazing at it in confusion. Gustav Fredericks? Well, the bloke was a fourteen carat nutjob, certainly, but surely most people still considered him a bit of a joke, with his Real World Party and all that crap about 'reclaiming masculinity'. Even if they did mostly buy his vitamins and health supplements. I never had done, partly because that sort of crap was firmly in the category of unnecessary expenditure, partly because every time I caught sight of him advertising his snake oil, I got an almighty urge to throw something.
'Want dinner,' Mikey observed hopefully. 'Chips, Mummy? Chips?'
'We'll see,' I said, slightly alarmed by how loud our voices sounded. There was no sign of anyone else around at all, and I thought it singularly unlikely that poor Mikey would get his wish.
We moved on, along to the middle of the precinct, and none of the shops were open, though none of them appeared to have been damaged or attacked, either. The sounds of my footsteps and the soft rumble of the buggy wheels were starting to make me feel creepy. I turned left and we proceeded on, past the benches and the tubs of flowers, and then I spotted that the little minimarket at the end of the T-stem had its lights on and its doors open. I liked that minimarket, and often felt mean for not shopping there more often: the staff were always so smily and cheerful, nothing too much trouble,and the place had held out against more than one attempted buyout. Quickly, I made for it, even though Mikey had now begun to kick in the buggy and demand to get out and walk. He let go of the toy fire engine or possibly threw it down out of mischief, and it hit the pavement with a loud clatter. I turned my back on the market, picked it up and shoved it in the basket underneath the buggy seat as he didn't seem to want it back, and just as I was straightening up, a voice behind me said, 'So you're either brave or crazy, which one is it?'
I turned round slowly, gripping the buggy handle with one hand, tensed and ready to bolt, but when I looked at the speaker I started wondering if this whole crock of shit really was some kind of lucid dream.
It wasn't that she was nearly six feet tall, with shades on and a black leather jacket that had Fading Rock Chick pretty much written on it, particularly if you added the bottle of Jack Daniels she was swinging by the neck to the picture. It was more that I knew who she was. Her name was Deb Holloway, and she was the singer with a decent covers band called Wild Times, who I had seen perform on two or three occasions; the first time being at a Twilsdon pub's bank holiday event when Roy had actually been with Mikey and me, and she'd known him well enough to come over and say hello, and he'd introduced us.
I didn't say anything, because I wasn't sure she'd remember me – why should she? But I did feel, almost instantly, that there was no need to be scared of Deb, she still looked very much like herself rather than crazy or changed. It was Mikey who broke the silence, with another demand for something to eat, and I took a few more steps towards the door of the market, against which Deb was leaning.
'Food, eh? Well there's plenty in there, knock yourselves out.' she said, and I gave her another halfwitted bemused stare.
'Mummy EAT!' Mikey yelled, kicking furiously. I saw the sign on the door then, written in on a ragged square of cardboard in sprawling red marker pen: 'As normal service is totally suspended, just help yourselves, but please don't trash the place for the next customer.'
I think I probably meant to try and behave like someone in possession of a grip, but before I could stop myself I had just let loose and wailed, 'What the bloody hell is happening?'
Deb looked at the bottle in her hand, shrugged and then tucked it into the inside pocket of her leather.
'Why don't you get some food?' she suggested. 'This place is pretty safe at the moment, there's no one around, get some stuff and I'll fill you in when you've eaten. Looks like your little man isn't going to quieten down until he's fed.'
My stomach began to growl again, and Mikey carried on saying, with increasing intensity, 'Eat! Eat!' so I pushed the buggy into the minimarket and had a look around. There was no sign of anyone else there, and the bulk of the shelves actually looked untouched. The overhead lights were out but the ones in the aisles were still switched on. Ravenous though I was, I made the baby section – all two shelves of it in this place - my first target and grabbed half a dozen jars of the Growing Up food Mikey would accept, along with a pack of nappies. As I turned back out of that aisle, I saw that Deb had come back into the store as well, and was carrying a basket, with various things in it.
'Get yourself a picnic, come on, might as well eat up while the going's good,' she remarked. 'I could eat something as well, no fresh bread today, the bog standard's still OK though, come on.'
Still in a state of almost pure incomprehension, I followed her to the refrigerated shelves and picked out a pack of tomatoes and a box of grapes, a whole cooked chicken with a day to go before it was out of date, and a bag of salad leaves that still looked perfectly lively. Deb quickly snagged one of those Stay Fresh loaves and a packet of chocolate cake bars, and added a six pack of Fosters as we made our way back to the entrance.
When we got outside she led the way to one of the benches about half way down the T-stem, shuttered hairdressers facing us, closed charity shop at our back.
'You can let the kiddo out,' she said, with a nod to Mikey. 'Won't be anyone dodgy coming along here, at least in the daytime as far as I know.'
I wanted to ask her what she meant, what the fuck was going on and what had happened while I had been quietly counting the days till the next lot of benefits, but between Mikey's loudly announced hunger and my own, I decided that whatever it was all about, we'd be better off for a meal. I unshouldered my bag, set it down and took a seat. I was going to feed Mikey with one of the jars, but when I saw Deb setting out marge and mayonnaise and cheese along with the bread, and peeling the plastic from a pack of cheap cutlery, I set about tearing up the chicken, assembling bread, meat and mayo and slicing a tomato into his bowl along with the quartered sandwich. He was happy to stay in his buggy to eat while I ripped into both the chicken legs and gobbled a couple of tomatoes before I even got as far as buttering a slice of bread and getting outside of that. Deb fixed herself a sandwich of bread and pre-sliced cheese and mayo, as well, but seemed more interested in the beer. She was popping the top of the third can by the time Mikey refused any more of the strips I was pulling from the chicken breast, so I folded the last couple into my own mouth and finally reached for one of the cans of beer.
'Mummy out! Mikey out!' my son demanded, and I got a wipe out of the rucksack and cleaned him up a bit before undoing the buggy straps and helping him to his feet. I got one of his toy trains out and offered it to him, and he ran off gleefully to start running it round the rim of one of the plant tubs. I took a long, enjoyable gulp of Fosters and finally looked Deb in the eye, properly.
'So what is actually going on round here, Deb?' I said, and she dropped her drink and bolted upright.
'What? What? How the fuck do you know my name?' She was backing away from me, eyes wide and showing too much white, genuinely frightened. I stood up myself, feeling idiotic.
'Wild Times, right? I saw you at the Red Lion a few times. Honestly.' Then, a bit desperately, I added, 'I 'm Kizzy, Kizzy Smith, I was with Roy Wallis, you came over and said hello to him.'
Deb took a long breath and let it out through her nose.
'Right. OK. Yeah, you're right, you're Roy's... Is he Roy's son?'
Mikey was circuiting the plantpot still, choo-choo-ing happily to himself.
'Yes,' I said, a bit shortly. 'Roy's in America and we haven't seen him for months.'
'OK,' She smiled slightly. 'Roy's... Well, I know Roy. I'm glad he's out of the country, he's OK really, isn't he?'
I nodded. OK about summed Roy up. He hadn't been the great love of my life, or anything along those lines, just someone who I quite liked hanging out with from time to time and occasionally tumbled into bed with. When a condom split during one of those tumbles, I told myself that nothing would happen if I crossed my fingers, and when I found out I'd been wrong about that, I let Roy know while making it clear that I didn't blame him and wasn't going to insist he shacked up with me or anything. We'd remained on pretty good terms, and he'd given me a bit of money from time to time and now and again he'd come to visit us, even taking Mikey out for the occasional afternoon, but for Roy, music had always come first and when he got an offer from a band in New Jersey who needed a bass player, he'd packed his bags and taken off.
Deb's beer had spilled all over the concrete flags, so she picked up another one and popped the top before sitting back down.
'Funny old world gets even funnier,' she said. 'Look, why are you still around, with a kid in a pushchair? You could probably have got across the Channel by now – do you not read the papers? Do you not have Internet access or something? '
'It got cut off,' I said. 'About a fortnight back. And we're skint, so I couldn't have paid the fares anyway. For gods' sakes, what's been happening?'
'End of the world as we know it. Do you want the short version or the long one with extra conspiracy theory?'
'Is it anything to do with Gustav Fredericks?'
Deb made a disgusted face. 'Depends which talk sites you look at. My opinion is it wouldn't surprise me. Crazy on a mission, usually means something bad is going to happen somewhere.'
'But he's just a nutter,' I said, bewildered. 'No one takes him seriously, do they? Him and his wanky Real Men stuff.'
She shrugged and drained the Fosters can. 'I think some people did. And maybe some more people ought to have done.'
At this point Mikey came tottering back, still clutching the train, and put his arms out to be picked up. I gathered him onto my lap. He was probably sleepy, it was round about his usual naptime. However, there was a familiar smell hovering around him and I said to Deb, 'Sorry, need to do a nappy change.'
She didn't appear all that bothered, but I picked up the bag and moved over to the next bench down before seeing to Mikey's bum. I've never been very keen on doing changes, especially shitty ones, on benches or in public, but I really didn't fancy taking him off to the precinct toilets: for one thing I wasn;t entirely sure Deb wouldn't have taken the opportunity to vanish, and I didn't want her to go. She had far more of an idea of what was going on than I did, that was obvious.
Job finished, I carried Mikey back to where we'd been sitting, and settled back down on the bench with my now-definitely-sleepy son and rocked him gently while I waited for her to fill me in some more.
'Anyway,' said Deb, throwing out one arm. 'This is where it's at, whatever's caused it. Lots of people got ill and went crazy, and lots of those who didn't got killed by the ones who did. Lots of the ones who aren't sick or nuts have fucked off out of town, or been taken into quarantine or whatever they are calling it. I think anyone with any money tried to get out of the country. Have you seen anyone else today? Anyone other than me?'
I thought of the dead woman, lying in the garden, her belongings chucked around all over the place, and I felt my eyes fill up with frightened tears. Somehow, though, I didn't want to mention her to Deb, so I swallowed back the salt water, took a deep breath and told her about the motorcyclist and his daughter and she winced. 'Poor kid. Maybe her dad's clean, maybe he isn't. Mind you if he was still sounding rational and taking care of her, he probably is OK.'
She picked up another beer. 'What were you planning to do today? Apart from your shopping?'
'Go to my parents. They live in Brighton,' I replied, a bit mechanically. 'I thought there was something wrong with just South Twilsdon. I got my benefits today so I've got the money for a train ticket, that's what I thought I'd do. What about you?'
'Get pissed, basically.' She frowned, and glanced at Mikey, probably embarrassed that she'd used an expletive in front of him. He had nestled against me, train in one hand and the thumb of the other in his mouth, and I was gently, automatically, stroking his hair.
Deb looked at him a little more closely, and smiled. 'He's a lovely kid, by the way,' she said. 'Anyway, what I was thinking was if this is the end of the world, I'll just have a few drinks and see how it all shakes down. I always wondered what it would be like to live through the sort of things they come up with in horror films. I've got fuck all else to do these days. At least if I'm pissed when they get me, I won't feel no pain.'
I wasn't sure what to say to that. I hardly felt I could make any claim on her just because we'd had a vague pleasant conversation in a pub once, but at the same time I really didn't want to be on my own with Mikey in a world that had turned as hostile and alien as this.
Now I know more about her, I'm fairly sure that she would have said in the next few minutes that we should stick together and decide what to do next rather than just abandoning us in favour of drinking herself unconscious and waiting to die, but it wasn't actually put to the test at that point.

R2PeePoo Mon 18-Jun-12 14:21:46

More please sgb. I want to know what happens next.

ooooo thanks solid - when it's finished get it on Amazon as an ebook - I'll buy it!

Right, what I am going to do is set up an account on one of the Share YOur Writing forums and stick it up there - will post a link when I've managed to sort that out. At least I now feel galvanised into getting on with it (am partway through Chapter Six and know kind of where the story is going).

AnyFucker Mon 18-Jun-12 17:02:10

hehe, I hope we have managed to give a little push-ette, sgb smile

FirCough Mon 18-Jun-12 19:10:42

OK, constructive criticism here. It's promising with a slightly Wyndhamesque feel to it so far, but it needs a lot of work.

Your first paragraph failed to grip me at all, and had I read it anywhere else I wouldn't have read on. You need to come up with a much more arresting opening sentence:
Maybe it's because my life was, by most people's standards, fairly shit that I still have it.

You're on the right lines, but I read that and wondered what "it" was going to be. Didn't immediately cotton on that the narrator meant 'I survived'. No, you can do a lot better than that.

It's far too wordy: we don't need to know every detail of every item of food in the cupboard, or every garment the narrator washes, wears or packs. People soon tire of reading lists.

Avoid Americanisms - the story is not set in the USA. I misunderstood this sentence:
I got up and made for the bathroom, snagging my old blue robe on the way and pulling it on against the morning's chill.

I thought that the robe had caught on the doorknob and assumed the narrator was already wearing it. This is clearer and more concise:
I got up and made for the bathroom, pulling on my old blue robe against the morning's chill.

You don't have to describe every single action, it just bogs everything down and stops the story from moving on briskly. Some of the sentences are way too long and need breaking up too, otherwise the reader loses the sense.

But it's a draft and should be pretty good after a ruthless pruning! smile Hope you don't mind me sticking my oar in. blush

SkinnyVanillaLatte Mon 18-Jun-12 20:20:37

Enjoyed that too solidgoldbrass.I went through excitement and fear.I really want to have more of the events unfolded to me,so I have a better idea of the crisis that's going in.It's definitely reeling me in.

When you're rich and famous, remember us!

I had a couple of vague "that word is wrong" thoughts - my inner nerd can't help herself, but honestly solid - I have found myself thinking about your characters in odd moments all day, and wondering what they're doing/what is happening to them - they are alive for me and that is just wonderful. It's the mark of a good read for me - I care what happens to Mikey and his mum. And even the little girl on the motorbike, and the singer... Compared to some of the dross I've paid good money for, even the little snippet you've given us here is a million times better. If nothing else, you can bloody punctuate and that's more than some of the turkeys among the self published Kindle books on Amazon!

It's definitely still at the 'draft' stage so no offence taken at criticisms. I always like to get the bulk of the book down and then go back and revise (one reason my first drafts get a bit wordy is so I don't forget important points...)
Once I've got established on the writers' forum thingy I'll post a link rather than keep filling up MN's bandwidth.

Pombear: I find them alive too, I think about them a lot (more so than some characters I made up for other books), and when I was first writing it I gave myself nightmares with that 'playground' scene...

frenchfancy Mon 18-Jun-12 21:09:28

More please solid.

I agree it needs some editing, but that doesn't change the fact that it is good.

Here's Chapter Three. I think the rest of it probably needs a bit more beating into shape before I show it to folks...

The first thing we heard was the baby crying, that awful, desperate, shatteringly loud sound of a baby communicating major distress. Then, over it, came a woman's voice, shouting 'Help! Anyone there! Somebody help! Help us!' My arms tightened on Mikey but at least he didn't wake, I'd thought before he could probably sleep through an earthquake. It was Deb who leapt to her feet and took a few hurried steps towards the bottom of the T, where the noise was coming from.
'Fucking shit!' she muttered, then to me,' Put the kid in the buggy, quick!' I could see what she meant – that we might have to run – but at the same time I was frozen with panic. But then the woman came into sight, past the other entrance to the precinct, where the big Marks and Spencer was, and she wasn't running or behaving like someone who was being chased, but stumbling almost dazedly, looking around and shouting at the top of her voice.
She was probably pretty if scrubbed up nicely; youngish, reasonably slim, with a lot of curly red hair. Right now, though, wearing nothing but a scruffy nightie and a scruffier towelling robe, clutching the still-howling baby to her and with her face streaked with dirt and what was almost certainly blood, she wasn't going to win any prizes.
She spotted us around the same time we spotted her, and came to a hesitant stop, bending her head to the baby and trying to hush it. With one eye still on her, I lowered my sleeping boy into his buggy and did up the straps, just in case.
'We're harmless,' Deb called out to her. 'Are you? Are they coming after you?'
'No,' the woman said. 'No no, he's not after me. I've killed him. Poor Nicky, I've killed him,' and then she started crying, as well.

Her name was Joanna Finton-Scott, her ten-month-old daughter was Rosemary, and she wasn't actually entirely sure she'd killed her husband, but she'd hit him hard enough that he wasn't moving when she'd left their house. She hadn't been chased, she didn't think so anyway, and there had certainly been no one after her by the time she'd crossed the bridge at the end of Twilsdon Park, but there had been noises from the other houses when she ran from hers, crashes and screaming, so she'd headed straight here thinking there would be people who could help, and only started yelling herself when she saw the shops were all closed.
We got this much out of her in the first few minutes, during which we sat her down and Deb pretty much forced her to take a couple of swallows from the bottle of Jack Daniels. Joanna had a cut lip and her nose had been bleeding, but she was more upset about the fact that Rosemary's nappy and little pink sleepsuit were soaked with pee. She didn't seem aware of the state her bare feet were in after her panicked journey this far.
While Deb gently pressed her for more details, I went back into the minimarket and got a pack of nappies in Rosemary's size, plus a couple of jars of baby food. The damn place didn't stock baby clothes, or footwear, but one of Mikey's t-shirts would do the poor little sod for the moment. I dithered for a moment as to whether to take the buggy in with me, but somehow I had already accepted, deep down, that Deb was to be trusted, and Mikey didn't wake during my rapid foraging.
Joanna accepted both nappies and t-shirt with tearful gratitude, and insisted on seeing to Rosemary and changing her before she'd let us clean her own face up a bit, for which my packet of wipes came in useful.
She thanked me again for the baby food, but said that Rosemary wasn't used to it, and unbuttoned her nightie to feed the baby herself. While Rosemary fed, she told us a bit more of her story, and though Deb nodded understandingly through most of it, I kept quiet, trying to absorb how much I'd missed of what had been happening recently. She'd come from the upmarket estate at the other side of the park, a gated development of about a hundred or more households, where they had a very active neighbourhood watch type group. In the last few weeks, there had been talk about dividing it into a men's group and a women's group, and though neither she nor her husband had been wild about the idea, he'd gone along to a couple of the men-only meetings on the grounds that he'd have to know about it to object to it. But he hadn't wanted to talk about what went on when he came home, and Joanna had been preoccupied with Rosemary having a cold, and worrying about her job at the end of her maternity leave. The news had been getting worse all over, rumours of a nasty virus, of violent gangs roaming the streets, and other stuff only hinted at. Then some of the neighbours got ill, and one man apparently went mad and killed his wife and children. A few of the other neighbours loaded their families into their cars and just left.
'Well, you know, last Thursday,' Joanna said. 'Some of the news reports were saying head to your nearest assembly point if you've got any strange symptoms, some were saying everyone stay home and stay calm...'
Deb looked at me, and I looked away; Joanna, absorbed in reliving her experience, didn't appear to notice.
'Nicky went and bought a load of bottled water and tins, he went with Paul and Harley and their wives and they all said that there was nothing like as many people as you'd expect stocking up, which is weird when you think about it. But we agreed we'd stay put for the time being, things would probably settle down.'
Rosemary, not seeming to mind the fact that she was almost swamped in a bright blue t-shirt printed with helicopters, had fallen asleep against her mother's breast. Joanna looked at her lovingly for a moment and adjusted her nightie. Then her lips trembled and she struggled not to cry as she carried on.
'We were all right until this morning We'd been having a bit of a lie in as Nicky wasn't going to work. Then I got up and went to the bathroom, and when I came out, Nicky was on the landing and he just came at me and started hitting me. I – I managed to kick him in the balls, but he got up and came after me again. Rosemary was screaming in her cot and he took no notice of her at all, he was just all over me, I ran back into the bedroom to get to her and... and I grabbed the little lamp off the table and hit him with it. It was like it woke him up for a moment, he said 'Jo, run! Take Rosie and get out quick!' And then his face changed and he was roaring at me and hitting out, I was kicking and punching him and I knocked him backwards into the dressing table, he whacked his head on it and fell down, so I just grabbed Rosemary... He wasn't moving. I was trying to find a pair of shoes but I couldn't see them, and then I heard all this screaming from next door and I just lost it, I ran down the stairs and across into the park. And there was no one around, no one anywhere. And then I found you two.'
Silence fell. Deb picked up the Jack Daniels and took a drink from it, but didn't offer it around.
'Right.' she said. 'We need to get ourselves a bit sorted out now.'
She got up and went across to the charity shop, which was closed, lights off, but didn't have anything in the way of shutters or grilles. She peered inside for a few minutes, hands up to the glass and gazing through them. 'Brilliant. OK, that's great. There's a pushchair in there.'
Joanna and I watched her, both of us equally bemused as she pulled a roll of banknotes out of her pocket, examined it and shrugged. She turned back to us with a wry grin. 'I'd feel bad about ripping off a charity shop, but I'll stick some of this on the counter – just in case.'
Then she went to the nearest bin, lugged out its metal inner container and rammed it hard through the shop's big window. Mikey and Rosemary woke up at this and began to howl, Deb shook her head, used the metal bin to clear some big shards of glass and clambered into the shop.
'Is she nuts?' I said, even though I had started to accept that pretty much all the normal rules had gone by the board today. Joanna, rocking her screaming daughter, looked up at me and tightened her lips.
'I don't care, she can help us,' was what she said, and then Deb was thrusting an unfolded and rather grubby looking stroller out through the broken glass.
'Oi, Joanna!' she called. 'What size are your feet?'
'Fives' Joanna replied, standing up, Rosemary's cries tapering off as her mother jiggled her gently, murmuring to her. I picked Mikey up as well but sat back down on the bench with him to soothe him, trying to avoid getting too many thumps from his flailing little fists, so I missed whatever negotiations Joanna and Deb had been engaging in. By the time I'd thought of giving Mikey Bida to cuddle and Bida had worked its usual eight-legged magic on him, Joanna had got Rosemary strapped in the stroller and Deb was re-emerging from the shattered window with a lurid straw beachbag rammed with garments in one hand, and a pair of green wellies in the other.
'There is fuck all there apart from stilettos in a five, girl,' she was saying to Jo. 'But I've grabbed all the kids' clothes, and something for you, too.'
They both came back to where I was sitting just as Mikey closed his eyes again.
'Right,' Deb said again. 'We'll go back to mine in a minute. I've got triple locks and bars on the windows, so we'll all be safe enough in there for now, while we work out what to do next. As long as the power's not been cut, we can go online and find out where it's all at. Can either of you cook much, by the way?'
The question was no more or less incongruous than anything else that was happening, but somehow it made me want to laugh, particularly as Joanna said 'A bit,' just as I said 'Yeah, a bit.'
The upshot of this was me making my third and final trip round the minimarket, this time with Mikey in his buggy, filling a wire basket with meat, pasta and vegetables and various tins. With an internal shrug, I threw in a couple of bottles of the best red wine they had and then, with a half-guilty impulse, peeled off two of my banknotes and pushed them under a corner of the locked till.
I almost carted the whole lot out in the basket, but then I saw the pile of cotton eco-shoppers and spent another minute or two transferring my haul to a couple of these on the grounds that they'd be easier to hang off the buggy.
When I emerged, Deb was gently wheeling Rosemary to and fro. Before I could panic about Joanna, she re-appeared from the other arm of the T, in powder-blue tracksuit bottoms, what appeared to be a man's grey and white striped shirt and the wellies. She'd obviously braved the loos to change, or at least nipped into one of the accessible doorways down there. She had her nightie and robe in a bundle, which she tossed into the bin Deb hadn't used as a ramraiding tool.
Deb was clearly relieved to have us all in view again.
'Time to move on, I think,' she said. 'Kizzy, you want to grab any of that picnic stuff? Joanna, you hungry?'
Joanna shuddered. 'No. Really, no, let's get out.' She hurried across to Rosemary's stroller and took the handles from Deb while I scooped up the debris from the lunch, everything but the stripped chicken carcass, which I slung into the bin and the last beer, which Deb picked up and opened, and bundled it into the shopping compartment under Mikey's buggy. He was still asleep, Bida clutched tightly in his lap, but I knew he would be wide awake fairly soon, and wondered briefly how kid-friendly Deb's home might be. I was beginning to feel a nasty creeping unease again, and I had the impression the other two were of a similar mind.
OK, so we were burglars and shoplifters even though we had put some money down in the shops from which we'd met our needs, but it wasn't just that. I suppose it was the noise Deb had made breaking through that huge glass window, but whether it was that no one had come along to investigate, or that someone would come along any minute that was worrying me, I couldn't honestly say. I flashed back in my mind to the playground between the towers of Midwell Heights, and that sensation of being watched by hostile eyes, and needed no more urging at all.
We went down the stem of the T, the way Joanna had come, and turned along the line of lesser shops. On the other side of the road, the primary school and the rows of office buildings were all equally, obviously unoccupied. We were moving at a steady pace, Joanna and I both with buggies and bags – she had taken charge of whatever else Deb had looted. Deb herself had nothing heavier than the beer she was swigging from, but at least she wasn't haring off without us.
We were almost at the traffic lights – still functioning, I noticed, even without traffic to instruct – when a car appeared out of a sidestreet and turned towards us, not speeding but not dawdling either.
'Oh fuck,' Deb breathed and then glanced from Jo to me and hissed furiously, 'Don't say a word, either of you. Let me handle it.'
That was fine by me, particularly as Mikey chose that moment to wake up and demand a drink, and Joanna seemed equally happy to let Deb handle things. The car pulled over while I was dealing with Mikey, and the man in the passenger seat got out, holding a clipboard. The driver, who was much bigger, took a little longer to emerge. When I saw that they were both wearing yellow hi-vis waistcoats with Real World scrawled across the front in marker pen, I felt shivers go down my spine. This was mainly due to having another moment of being convinced I was having a very long, very lucid dream, but that if these two were the emissaries of my uncoonscious, what I was going to wake up to wasn't going to be all that good.
Clipboard Man, who looked like any amiable slight nerd, with thinning ginger hair, jacket on over a white shirt, and glasses, tried a friendly smile.
'Well ladies, are you making your way to a pick-up point?' he asked.
'We're fine, thanks. ' Deb said. Joanna bent down and fiddled with the straps on Rosemary's buggy, I think checking that her daughter was strapped in tightly enough to cope if we were going to run.
'We have a pick-up point on London Road,' the man said, still smiling. 'It's probably better for you if you make your way there. We could give you a lift.'
'What, with the children and the buggies? Have you got car seats?' Joanna demanded, and though Deb looked appalled I could see Jo's point instantly. We were three adult women with two small kids in the most basic of strollers, the car that these men were driving was your bog standard suburban vehicle, without room for all of us.
'Shut up, cunt,' the driver said, stepping round the front of the car. I grabbed the handles of Mikey's buggy, bracing myself to run, suddenly flashing back to the man in the playground the day before. That same weird grating voice, that same slow heavy stepping... The other man, the clipboard wielder, swung round and looked at his mate with genuine alarm. 'It's OK, Nelson,' he said. It's OK, they can walk there if I give them directions. They will do, they know it's for the best.'
'Yes ,yeah, we'll get there by ourselves,' Deb volunteered. Rosemary had woken up too and begun to kick and yelp,softly but definitely demanding some attention.
'Cunts!' Nelson said again, and made a kind of stumbling rush at the lot of us. It was Joanna who moved the fastest: she swivelled the buggy round away from him and did a kind of sideways kick at his knee. It didn't work and his hands came up and grabbed her leg, and he flung her down on the pavement. Somehow the buggy tipped over and fell on its side, and Rosemary's screams of terror and pain added to the whole mayhem. Deb jumped in with her hands locked together and landed a good hard hammer punch to the back of his neck, and he fell, but he fell onto Joanna's legs., grabbing at her, ripping at her shirt. Clipboard dropped his clipboard and danced about on the spot, shouting 'No, no, no!' Mikey was shouting 'No, no!' as well,and I thought of just wheelying the buggy and running like I had done when I saw the dead woman in the garden, but then Joanna kicked Nelson off, and the sun came out from the clouds and beamed sudden bright rays over the street and Nelson went into convulsions. He'd rolled over on his back and he started roaring and thrashing and jerking, and the other man, the clipboard wielder, rushed over and knelt down beside him. Joanna had scrambled to her feet and dived for Rosemary, hauling the buggy upright and and and making vague patting soothing gestures. Deb glanced from her to me and said, 'Move on up, let's go, let's go right now,come on.' We hurried after her, not in desperate flight but shifting quickly, despite the kids screaming and raging in the buggies, and when we reached the next junction we were just about to make a smart right turn and go on. I risked one look back and saw Nelson bucking where he had fallen and suddenly releasing the most amazing jet of red vomit, his feet drumming on the road.
'Bida, mummy, BIDA!'
Mikey's yells suddenly penetrated my brain, not the fact of his screaming but the content, and I came to an instant stop, realising that he'd lost his beloved toy. I looked round and saw it, about ten feet away from the men who'd intercepted us.
'No,' Deb snapped as she saw me stop. 'No, girl, no, come on!'
'No. NO!' I shouted back at her. 'Look after Mikey,' and I thrust the buggy, burdened with my son and the stuff we'd looted, practically into her crotch and ran back the way we'd come. At the time all I could think was that Mikey wanted Bida and I couldn't bear to deprive him; it was only a bit later on that it sank in, why I stupidly ran back to get a manky, battered, pointless cuddly toy. Bida was home, safety, our normal quiet lives, and Mikey had lost his home and his father and his grandparents and his comfy cot and I wasn't going to let him lose anything else.
It wasn't actually very far, we hadn't got very far away, but going any closer to Nelson's dying than I had to was not much fun. Yes, Nelson was dying – he vomited another massive glut of blood when I was almost within touching distance. Bida, a bright splat of orange fabric, lay in the middle of the pavement, limbs sprawled out like a blighted drawing of a sun. Clipboard saw me, or became aware of me, and turned properly round, getting to his feet from the crouch he'd been in. 'I just want Bida,' I babbled, 'Bida's Mikey's , he needs him.' I made a grab at the thing and fumbled, grabbed again and got it by one rotten orange leg. Nelson groaned, and started slamming his head into the pavement; Clipboard focussed on me. He was splattered with blood, not too badly, but not all of it was Nelson's. 'This is all absolutely fucked,' he said, quite calmly. 'All of it. Absolutely fucked.' And then he turned his back, shaking his head. I had Bida, so I turned and ran, seeing that Joanna was well ahead with Rosemary and Deb was pushing Mikey's buggy further away slowly, turning round every step or two to look for me. Mikey was yelling for me as well, I covered those last few steps faster than an Olympic runner, and then I was back with them, my hand on the buggy handle.
'I should have shot you, but no one ever does that,' Deb observed, relinquishing the buggy to me as I gave Bida back to Mikey and and got moving. I wasn't really listening to her words, more the tone of them, which was friendly concern rather than threat.
We caught up with Joanna fairly quickly, she had stopped at the next turning, unsure of whether to bolt off into the random future or wait and see if we were still with her.
'It's fine, it really is this way,' said Deb, and a few minutes and a couple more junctions later, we were at her place.
It was the basement of a late Victorian semi, and she'd not been lying about the window bars, or the locks – it took her a couple of minutes of swearing and key-counting to get the lot of us inside. Getting the buggies, particularly laden as they were, down the dogleg of steps, was no fun either. However, once we were in, I felt a huge sense of relief. Deb's flat had electricity, as proved by the fact that a light was on in the front room, and it was reasonably clean and comfortable. One large room, that same front room, opened off the hallway, with a big squashy sofa and small table, a desk with a computer on and bookshelves piled high with books. I could see a kitchen through an archway, and another couple of rooms on the other side.
We hauled some of the furniture around and turned the coffee table on its side and managed to make a kind of pen for the kids. Joanna propped Rosemary up on some cushions and Mikey, who was used to babies after our year of well meaning church hall groups, was happy to show her his trains or play with them himself. Joanna and I flopped on the sofa and both of us looked up at Deb.
'This is more than just us,' said Joanna, bluntly. 'It's more than just Twilsdon, or even London, isn't it?'
Deb pulled the bottle of whisky out of her coat pocket and took a swig.' Yup. Don't know how far it's got, though She had sat down in the computer chair, now she swivelled it round, picked up a remote and fired up the TV. Most of the channels she flicked through showed Not On Air At Present signs, even those that would normally be broadcasting endless repeats of quiz shows. The kid channels were off as well. Finally she found the 24-hour news, which showed a single presenter sitting on the edge of a desk.'It has not been confirmed that the Prime Minister is showing any symptoms, ' she said. 'Some Cabinet ministers appear to have been taken ill or otherwise be unable to be present at these meetings. The Queen is going to be making a statement shortly from Balmoral, where the Royal Family have been staying for the past few weeks. For the moment, you are advised to stay at home or, if you feel you are in danger or anyone in your household is showing unusual symptoms, make your way to the nearest Government control point.' The bottom of the screen showed a constantly-scrolling invitation to view their website for futher information.
'What do they mean, control point? ' Joanna asked. Deb snorted. 'Fuck all. Not even sure there ever were any. Well some people seem to have been put up in church halls and gyms and that, but nothing else. But that's a recording anyway. It's been on for three days.'
'Did the Queen make a speech? We were watching the news, well Nicky was, and he didn't say anything about the Queen.'
Deb shrugged. 'I don't think so. Maybe the servants went mad and ate her before she could do it – or maybe there weren't enough people still functioning at the Beeb to get it on the air.'
'So what are we going to do?' I said. 'No offence, but we can't stay here forever. What about the kids?' Joanna got up immediately and leaned over the barricade to pick Rosemary up.
'She's wet, I need to change her,' she said.
'I got you nappies, but I don't know about clothes,' I was on my feet too, remembering the shopping that had been dumped in the hallway with the buggies. Deb let us get on with it, after telling us that she'd just pulled everything off the kids' clothes rail in the charity shop, along with the random selection of clothing Joanna was wearing. To Joanna's delight, Deb's haul included a couple of Rosemary-sized baby grows and a little white dress, and I was pleased to find a pair of dungarees that would fit Mikey, along with a pile of assorted t-shirts, leggings and jackets the kids could probably be put into if there was nothing else. Joanna bore the baby off to the bathroom and Deb turned her slightly squinting eyes on me. 'You said you were going to get to your parents. Did you phone them? Or do you want to?' I suddenly thought of Mum and Dad, comfortably pottering around their house, and then I thought of the smashed windows, the dead woman in her own front garden, the way the world had slipped out of focus,
'Yes, yes please,' I stammered.'I was out of credit, I was going to get some - '
'Not sure the mobile networks are working,' Deb observed. 'I couldn't get much on mine earlier, but good old BT seems to be holding up.'
She waved me into the kitchen, where there was a landline handset stuck on the wall and I dialled the Brighton number. It just rang and rang, and I looked at my watch and saw it was nearly 6 pm. They were always home then. That was weak gin and tonic time, while Mum slung the frozen veg into a pan and checked the pie or the stew or whatever. I hung up and dialled again, with the same result. I put the phone back in it's cradle and went to the sitting room. Joanna had come back with Rosemary kicking happily in her arms in one of the babygrows.
'There's no answer,' I said.
'Maybe they cleared off,' Joanna suggested. 'Loads of people were taking off abroad, when it started getting bad. After all the riots, and then when everyone started getting ill.' I winced a bit, remembering how I'd dismissed the reports of rioting as the usual old bollocks and nothing worth worrying about, even though, as people had been saying on Facebook and on the blogs, it wasn't the right time of year for riots.
I honestly wasn't sure what bothered me more; Mum and Dad fleeing whatever kind of cataclysm this was without at least trying to take me and Mikey with them, or Mum and Dad struck down in their home, beaten and killed, vanished forever.
'At this point, we're supposed to go and look for them,' Deb said and I winced. 'How about you, Joanna, where are your parents? Any siblings who might be lost and wandering around somewhere?' Joanna looked as bemused as I felt at Deb's carefree tone. She seemed to pick this up, because she waved a hand at the book cases, which were stacked with as many DVDs as book. 'This is what I do, review horror fims, People generally want to go and look for someone when it's really not a good idea' she said, and glanced at me. 'Well, reviewing is what I do when I'm not singing. Anyway, Kizzy, weren't you going to cook? Mut be getting on towards dinnertime.' I looked at the clock and reaslied it was almost 6pm, Mikey at least was going to be announcing his hunger soon. If nothing else, I could at least make a good meal for him, one involving fresh vegetables, properly cooked.
Cooking soothed me.It was like one of those evenings I'd occasionally spent getting together with friends before all this whatever it was; a few of the girls in our shabby little flat passing the drinks around, cuddling Mikey abd their own kids, chatting about something and nothing – Deb even put some music on, an undemanding 70s compilation. I'd grabbed the basics for a scratch spaghetti bolognese, which I threw together on Deb's battered but clean stove, and both Joanna and Deb ate appreciatively. Mikey also demolished the bowlful he was given, and even Rosemary, brought out to sit on her mum's knee like Mikey was sitting on mine, ate some of the spaghetti and a spoonful of sauce. When we'd finished, both kids were turning a bit sleepy so Joanna and I held them on our laps.Having wiped Mikey's hands and face, I dug his red blanket out and wrapped him up.
'Do you want to put them to bed?' Deb asked, and Joanna and I glanced at each other. 'For me, and probably for her, it was another of those little moments that are a dislocating shock: here we are in a strange place, limited provisions, limited facilities and it's bedtime for our little loves with no familiar bed or cot or storybook.
Deb got to her feet and went into the hallway. After a few minutes of thumping and shuffling, during which Joanna soothed Rosemary with a breastfeed and I cradled Mikey to me, gently stroking his ruffled curls, she reappeared looking rather pleased with herself.
'OK I think this might do for tonight,' she announced. In what was clearly her spare room, she'd spread out and inflated a double airbed, chucked an unzipped sleeping bag on top of it and surrounded it with filled boxes of books, just enough to confine little people safely and leave room for Joanna and I as well. I said it was great, and noted Joanna taking a bit of a deep breath before agreeing: maybe Rosemary had been used to a solid gold cot or something. More likely she was uneasy about the prospect of sleeping with either me, Mikey or both of us. Still, we took turns in the ungenerously sized bathroom to deal with things like washing, nappies, and , in my case, cleaning Mikey's teeth and in Joanna's, fretting a little about the fact that she couldn't do the same for Rosemary's two and a half pearly-whites.
Deb also offered a big clean bathtowel to do duty as a blanket for Rosemary, and her mother wrapped her in it before lowering her down with a kiss on the forehead. 'She might wake up,' Joanna said uneasily. If she does, I'm picking her up, I mean it.'
Mikey wanted Bida, and clutched the thing tightly to him as I rearranged his blanket round him and, not giving a toss what either of the other two thought, sang 'Dream a little dream' to him until his eyes closed. As it was, Joanna sat quietly beside me while I was singing, though Rosemary had fallen asleep almost instantly. Once Mikey was over as well, we both got up in silent accord and crept out of the room and across the hall. Deb had fired up her computer and was tapping away at it. She turned round with a slight frown as we approached her.
'It's not looking good,' she said.

frenchfancy Tue 19-Jun-12 07:07:12

Great Solid - but you have now made me late for school!

Thanks solid - at least they're safe for now, I've been worrying about them stuck in the open all night blush

R2PeePoo Tue 19-Jun-12 13:57:23

Thank you SGB, I have a little boy the same age as Mikey and there is a lot there that I really related to, I was worried for him a bit blush and my throat got a little tight when she ran back for his soft toy.
Very good.

I must admit I deliberately made Mikey not look like my DS as I had to separate the fictional toddler from my own child...

R2PeePoo Tue 19-Jun-12 17:52:11

Good plan!

OK here's chapter four. It's a bit of a mess, there are things wrong with it that I basically won't be able to fix until I've written the whole thing and let it sit for a while, but... well, you might as well have a look grin.

Deb had about four windows open on the screen and was toggling between them, occaisonally taking gulps from the now nearly empty bottle of Jack Daniels to the right of the screen. 'Trouble with this is that you can't tell what's true and what's bollocks, most of the time,' she muttered. 'And then shit keeps disappearing.'
She spun round in her chair to face us, and rubbed a hand over her face. 'Kids asleep?' she asked. We said that they were. Deb sighed, 'Poor little sods. Well, anyway, at least this shit seems to be staying here, staying in this country. Loads of stuff on Twitter from people everywhere else, trying to find out if their mates are still alive and not sounding like it's happening anywhere outside the UK. But everything here is looking, well, less good. I think anyone who hasn't got out of the country by now has missed the boat on that, as well.''
She went on to explain that the official news sites had nothing much but these static messages about reporting to your nearest control centre, and the most recent stuff was suggesting that ports and airports were closed. She said most of her Facebook friends were just inactive, with more seeming to disappear all the time. Then she showed us the Real World page, which had a load of updates about keeping calm and doing what you're told by your 'superiors' and then the comments attached to it, which were a whole lot of random guff about how this was great, that it was About Time, and all sorts of incoherent rubbish about women knowing their place and feminism Going Too Far and stuff about building a better future that made me feel quite queasy. In fact, I suddenly realised, I did feel more than a little bit queasy. I let out a bit of a burp, then swallowed it back down with a nasty taste in my mouth. Joanna was talking about how some of her neighbours had been interested in Real World, and so many of them had been taking Fredericks health stuff, even her husband Nicky had tried the Muscle Builder. She got a bit tearful at that point, fretting about Nicky and whether he was alive or not, and whether he would be looking for her, and I thought about making some suggestions but then I heard Mikey. He started with a pitiful little call of 'Mummy!' followed by retching, and by the time I'd got to the bedroom he'd thrown up all over himself, and when I'd got him cleaned up and his blanket washed, and thanked something or other that he hadn't puked on the mattress or on Rosemary, my own stomach was in a state of wild revolt and Joanna, coming in again to check on her daughter, was lucky she didn't get a missive from one or both ends of my body.

I'd made a big mistake in picking that chicken for our lunch, at least Deb reckoned that was the cause of the misery Mikey and I endured for the next day. My initial bout of throwing up left me weak and trembling, so I'd politely bowed out of further discussion, got myself undressed and gone to lie down, but the minute I did that, Mikey filled his nappy spectacularly, with wails of distress, , and by the time I'd changed him I was running quite a temperature, and so it went on. Deb and Joanna, having hastily rearranged things in the front room so as to make a nest for Rosemary and clear the sofa for Joanna to sleep on, did relays of bringing buckets and wet cloths and drinks of water to us,at least I think so, everything went into a bit of a blur of stumbling to and from the airbed and the bathroom, dizzy and feverish and evacuating myself from both ends, drifting off to sleep and being woken by Mikey either spewing, shitting explosively or crying with uncomprehending distress. I wasn't really aware that the house was attacked a couple of times, though not seriously: some bashing around in the garden in the small hours of the morning, and someone outside demanding we come out and account for ourselves, but someone who didn't, apparently, sound right at all. Joanna told me later that they'd talked at one point about leaving the two of us and making a run for it, but had worked out rapidly that they were better off staying put, or so she said.

It was shortly after nine on the Thursday that I woke up feeling more like a human being and aware that Mikey had slept through from the previous evening and was now stirring up and asking for breakfast, with no sign of either shits or pukes. I got up and went through to the main room; Deb was sitting by the computer and Joanna was feeding Rosemary.I rubbed my hand over my face and said,'I think we're OK now.' I was still uneasy and confused about the whole state of play, and was going to go on and thank Deb for putting up with us and suggest that Mikey and I went … well, where? Somewhere. There would have to be somewhere to get to.
'It's working out like it does in the books,' Deb said, not taking her eyes off the screen. 'Out of the cities and into the communes. Already. Shall we go north or south, ladies?'
'North,' Joanna said, around the same time as I said, 'What? Where?' Deb explained, in a slightly condescending fashion, that as far as she could understand from her various internet buddies, people were starting to congregate at places that were set up for self-sufficiency and settling themselves there.
'Happening quite quickly, as well,' she remarked. 'But then lots of people have watched horror films. Have you ever noticed that people actually in horror films never seem to have watched horror films? They never seem to have a clue what they ought to be doing. Obviously, things are fucked here and we're in it for the long haul, so it makes sense to try and find yourself a decent place to set up home in.'
'I'm glad you can see the funny side,' Joanna snapped. We both glanced at her and glanced away. I don't know what Deb was thinking, but it struck me that she and Joanna might have found it a little bit awkard being thrown on each other's company so much.
'Well, we're running low on food,' Deb remarked, pushing herself away from the desk. 'Kizzy, you and Mikey ought to eat something, just grab whatever you fancy from what's there. Then maybe we should try to sort out what we're all going to do next.'
'Mummeee!' Mikey had clearly heard his cue, and come toddling into the hallway, rubbing his eyes. I abandoned the conversation for the time being and went to pick him up; he was damp but didn't smell pooey. There were only three nappies left in the pack I'd liberated, which made me realise that , whatever happened next, we were going to need more supplies. Exploring the kitchen reinforced the idea, it was nearly as bad as mine had been two days ago. Two days. I stopped for a moment and let a shiver run all the way through me, back of the neck to tips of my toes. Two days ago I'd been planning to run to my mum and dad, because I couldn't cope. Now the whole country couldn't cope. By the sound of it, while I'd been waging my own little war on the horrors of Life With No Money, the rest of the UK had been waging some kind of war on itself.
'Mummy! Hungry!' Mikey insisted, and I got as much of a grip as I could, and sorted him out some crackers and cheese and a couple of chocolate biscuits, and the same for myself. There were a couple of opened packs of cold meat in Deb's fridge, but I decided not to risk them on top of the doing we'd already had. Deb didn't have a kitchen table as such, but there was a high stool pushed under the kitchen counter so I sat Mikey on that with a plate of food in front of him, and stood with one arm lightly round him while we ate. I also positioned myself at such an angle that I could hear what Joanna and Deb were saying.
'So do we go and just stock up on stuff and come back here? Or do you want to be rid of us?' That was Joanna, sounding a bit shrill. 'I mean, you've been very kind and everything, but I suppose we are complete strangers really. And those two – 'She did lower her voice here. 'Well what with them being so sick and everything -' Deb cut in. 'Oh come on, that was food poisoning, you didn't believe all that crap about a plague, did you?'
Joanna again: 'But loads of people were getting ill, the last couple of weeks, everywhere was short-staffed and... well, people were just getting really ill. And look at that man, that one that chased us, he was ill, not just mad or anything, really ill And they were saying on the news about having symptoms – that's being ill, not being crazy.'
And Deb: 'Yeah, unusual symptoms. Ordinary puking and shitting off bad meat isn't unusual. Those weren't the sort of symptoms. Anyway, I'm not sure we can stay here. We all ought to move on out.'
'Yes but where to? Have you got a plan?' This last was said with a nasty sort of sneer, which made Mikey look uneasily in the direction of the door. He'd eaten up everything I'd found for him, so I gave him the last chocolate biscuit off my own plate and lifted him down, leading him towards the front room. Deb and Joanna stopped talking when they saw us, which I didn't think was all that healthy, but I stiffened my shoulders and gave Mikey's hand a little squeeze. If Deb wanted us to go, even though it didn't sound too much as though she did, then I would have to think of something, but I would think of something. Because of Mikey.
Deb was turning towards us, nothing about her manner suggesting she was going to throw the pair of us – or the four of us for that matter – out to fend for ourselves.
'Did you email Roy, by the way? Do you want to?' I was so wrong-footed by the question that I just stood there for a second or two. I'd been in my usual mindset of Not Really Thinking About Roy, and it occurred to me that, actually, given the size and impact of this fucking mess, Roy might have heard about it. He might be worrying about us. He might actually be horribly worried about us. For a moment I felt guilty and ashamed.
'Would you mind?' She gave me a bit of a look and got up from the computer chair. Scooping Mikey onto my lap I quickly checked my Hotmail account: no new messages. I was surprised at the sudden bout of rage that went through me: Roy had always been first and foremost about Roy, and music, and wherever the good times are. I was tempted to send him a blisteringly nasty email about the hell we'd lived through so far, and had actually begun to compose it when Deb leaned over my shoulder. 'I'm not sure how much news is getting through to the States,' she said. 'You ever been there? American news is all about America.' I wasn't really listening to her, I was trying to find a way to say what I wanted to say to Roy. Or even work out what I wanted to say to Roy. We'd never lived together anyway, so I found it hard to imagine what things might have been like if he had been there with us this last few days. I couldn't really picture him repelling all assailants from the top of the steps at Riley Court, he'd have been sitting on the floor, playing his guitar and insisting that they'd go away if we ignored them. Eventually I settled for ' Just letting you know that we are OK, will be in touch soon.'
'So what are we going to do now?' Joanna put in. I noticed for the first time that she was wearing a baggy black Wild Times t-shirt that Deb must have lent her, big enough for her to simply haul down the neckline and pop out a tit to feed her baby, and it occurred to me that my own ropey floral nightie wasn't exactly mountain fresh. Mikey wriggled, wanting to get down and I lowered him to the floor.
'Can't leave without a plan,' Deb was muttering. ' Got to have somewhere to go, obviously.'
She went into the kitchen and reappeared with a fresh bottle of whiskey, which she opened and took a gulp from, without offering it round. Not that I would have wanted any at that hour of the morning, and I very much doubted Joanna would.
'Course, what we really need is transport.' Deb announced. 'What with the kids – Do you drive, either of you? I haven't done for years.'
'I can't,' I said, feeling suddenly stupid. For most of my adult life, people had suggested that I learn, but I simply hadn't bothered.
'Mind you, we'd have to steal a car anyway. And I have no idea how...' Deb bit her lips, but Joanna was suddenly full of optimism. 'No we don't – I've got a car. My house isn't that far away, and I could get our things, as well. Rosemary's things, and something to wear. And there's food as well, tins and stuff in the kitchen. And -' She stopped, and shuddered, literally shuddered, it was an all-over thing. 'And, well, if I don't have to go on my own, there's Nicky. I could find out - ' For a moment my mind had gone blank, but then I remembered: her husband. The husband she thought she'd killed after he went for her. Now it was my turn to shudder. Deb was frowning, assessing the risks as she swallowed another mouthful of whiskey.
'OK,' she said, eventually. 'I can't think of a better idea than that. We'll get your car and stuff, and then come back here and work out what to do next. OK, get yourselves dressed, get the kids dressed, let's do it.' She herself, with the run of her own wardrobe, was already sorted; I put my once-smart, now rather crumpled and smelling slightly stale, shirt and trousers back on and Joanna re-donned the tracky bottoms and wellies Deb had got for her in the charity shop raid, keeping on the t-shirt and also borrowing a pair of Deb's socks. Mikey had a clean outfit left from the stuff I'd brought from Riley Court, so I put him in that, then re-packed the rest of our stuff, including some of the things Deb had taken from the charity shop, into the bag.
Before we left, Deb revisited the kitchen and came out with an odd array of utensils; one large carving knife which she proceeded to slip into the inside pocket of her leather jacket, a couple more knives, a hammer and a rolling pin.
She saw my eyes light on it and almost smirked. 'Used to have a boyfriend who was a baker,' she said. 'But, look, we don't know what's out there, or who's out there. Probably not a bad idea to be ready.
What was out there, at least the first obstacle out there, which we hadn't noticed before opening the door, was pouring rain. I had my parka and Mikey his coat and shoes, but there was nothing in the way of rain gear for poor Rosemary – or Joanna. Deb gave Joanna a dark green hoodie to wear, but Jo was far more concerned about the baby, to be fair. In the end we settled for covering Rosemary in a big bath towel, doubled over and fastened to the buggy's frame with clothes pegs, and tying one of Deb's bandanas on her head, with a couple more tucked in Joanna's pockets to replace the first one when it got soaked through. Rosemary howled dismally as we plodded along the shining wet pavements, and I can't say I blamed her. Joanna hunched over the buggy, I think trying to soothe the baby; Mikey was quiet enough, though he kicked his legs repetitively. I wasn't feeling quite right yet, still a little weak and wobbly after all that upchucking, and the only one who seemed in a chipper sort of mood was Deb.
'Best thing that could happen, really,' she said as we turned towards the precinct. 'This rain. Nothing like rain for keeping arseholes indoors.'
'What about other people, though, people who are all right, just scared?' I ventured, before I could stop myself. 'I mean, we can't be the only ones left, maybe we'll see other people, find out more about what's going on.' Deb widened her eyes. 'Suppose we might, at that.' She didn't say anything more as we drew near the precinct, and I went back to thinking about illness and sickness. Not just because I wasn't feeling brilliant, but because of what I'd overheard. I was sure Deb was right and Mikey and I had been suffering from nothing more than food poisoning, but when I tried to come up with a set definition of what the plague or not-plague actually was, I realised that I actually had no idea. People were just being Not Well. Nothing was being said about what kind of unwellness was happening, not even the basics of whether you should watch out for fever, or rashes, or coughing or even vomiting.
I slowed down as we got to the edge of the precinct, expecting the others would as well, thinking we could go back to the minimarket which at least had nappies, but Joanna was forging ahead. Deb saw where I was looking.
'Better to get the car first and load up afterwards,' she said. I didn't feel too sure about that idea myself, but I didn't fancy arguing the point. After all, if I pissed our companions off, there was nothing to stop them abandoning Mikey and me.
''Home?' Mikey put in at this point. 'Go home Mummy?' I fought back an urge to burst into tears. My poor little boy had recognized the familiar aspect of the manky old precinct after a couple of nights in totally unknown territory, and now he wanted his own safe space back. But his home wasn't safe any more. I wasn't sure if anywhere was. Particularly if it was just the two of us.
'Not now, lovey,' I said gently. 'We're having an adventure. Mikey's going to lots of new places.'
We got across the park without any incidents, though there were one or two heaps in the grass that I just decided not to do more than glance at. The other two either didn't notice them or had chosen, like me, to ignore them.
Drake Manor Park, where Joanna and Rosemary lived – or had lived – looked very smart indeed as we drew near it, though when we got right up to the gates it was a touch less impressive. The gates themselves were buckled, as though something had been driven right through them, and the first couple of houses we passed had smashed up stuff and litter all over their gardens. Joanna bent her head over Rosemary's stroller and said nothing, so Deb and I just carried on walking. The rain had finally stopped, and the sun was partway out, but the day still felt a touch oppressive.
The house she led us to looked ordinary enough, curtains in the windows, neat little front garden with a circle of flowerpots stood on flagstones round a central pebble square, and a garage to the side. The front door was shut and locked, though, and somehow I didn't think Joanna, in her original panic-driven flight, had secreted a key about herself.
She saw me look at her and seemed to read my mind.
'We keep a spare one, you know,' she said. 'It should be here, hang on.' She pushed Rosemary's buggy at Deb, who put one hand on it, and shifted one of the pots, which was filled with some droopy orange flowering shrub, liberating a Yale key from underneath it. She'd been quite bright and focussed all the way over here, but she took a couple of steps towards the door and stopped dead. I knew what she was thinking, or at least partly – this had been her home, where she'd been living happily and comfortably, at least by the look of it, with her husband and her beloved baby daughter. Two days ago she'd run from it, bolting headlong out of the place in her nightie with the baby in her arms, because her husband had attacked her and she'd had to beat the crap out of him just to get away. While there were one or two ex-boyfriends of mine that I could probably have murdered and walked away whistling, I did understand that she was frightened of what she might find if she opened that door.
'Jo, you don't have to do it,' I said, surprising myself. Mikey chose that moment to start clamouring to get out of his buggy, but I shushed him. I thought I could detect something of a smell, something inherently nasty, shit and blood and something else.
'Maybe let me go in first?' Deb suggested. 'In case.. You and Kizzy stay outside with the kids for a moment and let me check?'
Joanna bit her lips and shut her eyes and sort of thrust the key at Deb, then took a step back and reached for Rosemary's stroller. She undid the straps and picked the still-grumbling baby up, holding Rosemary tightly to her.
'Go on then. Please. His name's Nicky, call him when you open the door, please call him.'

Deb did as she asked, unlocking the door and calling 'Nicky? Mr Finton-Scott? Are you there?
I noticed she braced herself across the doorway in a way that stopped either Joanna or I from seeing much round her; though she wasn't fat, she took up a fair bit of space when she wanted to. No one answered her, so she took a step across the threshold, then another. Then she made a little exasperated noise.
'Sorry Jo, but someone's trashed your kitchen. Think you might have had looters in here.'
'What? What the hell? Oh that's not fair!' Joanna almost shouted. She tried to push past Deb, who held her back and turned around, looking at me.
'Kizzy, will you come in with me? Jo, we'll take a quick look round, can you look after the kids?'
Joanna's eyes were wild, she was obviously dying to scream 'But this is MY HOUSE!' at us and anyone else who might be listening, but at the same time she didn't actually want to go inside it at all. I didn't terribly want to leave Mikey with her, either, having got this fairly deeprooted impresion that they didn't much like one another or were at least mutually indifferent. Still, I didn't want to stand in Joanna's somehow depressingly neat and tidy garden fretting about things.
I followed Deb into the hall, seeing in one quick glance that she was right about the kitchen – the cupboard doors were all open and so was the fridge, there was crockery thrown about the floor along with a broken jar of jam and some packets of herbs and spices. The sitting room, to the left of the hall, looked untouched when I glanced into it, but Deb was already heading up the stairs.
'Mr Scott? Mr Finton-Scott? Nicky?'

He was in the bedroom, in the bed. The upstairs landing and the bedroom did show a few indications of a fight, so there was no reason to doubt Joanna's version of events, but Nicky Finton-Scott had clearly come round, in more ways than one, after she'd left. He'd killed himself with a bottle of gin and the contents of several pill bottles which were lined up neatly on the bedside table and left a note on the other pillow. It was clearly designed to be read by whoever found him, so Deb and I read it.
'It's my fault and I'm putting an end to it. Please tell my wife JOANNA FINTON SCOTT and my daughter ROSEMARY that I love them very much and I hope they got away and are safe. I am not safe and never will be. Jo I don't blame you at all. Kiss Rosemary for me. Whoever finds me please tell them I love them.'
His face was battered, lip split and nose squashed, but it also looked somehow wrong, a strange colour and distorted. I made no claims to be an expert in what happens to us when we die, but surely he'd been dead for less than 48 hours so he shouldn't look that peculiar. There was a wedding picture on the wall, Joanna with her hair all braided up with beads and a fair-haired, pink-cheeked classic Englishman in a morning suit next to her, only just recognisable as the dead man in the bed.
'Bet he's not the only one,' Deb murmured, and then she bent over and pulled the quilt up over his weird mashed face.'Poor bastard.'

When we got back outside, Joanna was bumping Mikey's buggy to and fro while he objected loudly, hugging Rosemary and glancing from side to side.
'He's there, but he's dead, Jo,' Deb said, very gently. 'You didn't kill him. It wasn't your fault. But I don't think we should hang around here. Do you want to get anything, or shall we just take the car?'
I had gone straight to Mikey, and having unstrapped him from the buggy I was letting him toddle about in Joanna's poncey front garden, only half-listening. Sorry as I was for the fate of Nicky Finton-Scott, which was only a moderate amount as he had, after all, tried to kill his wife and presumably his baby before he killed himself, I was also fretful about my own son. Mikey was still holding on to Bida as he pottered round the flowerpots, little trousers sagging, and I unslung my backpack in order to change him.
The end of Joanna and Deb's conversation, which I had not been paying much attention to, was that Joanna went upstairs by herself to say her goodbyes to her dead husband and grab some of her things, while Deb was quite literally holding the baby. She came back out into the garden, gently jiggling Rosemary, while I was buttoning Mikey, clean-nappied, back into his clothes.
'Bright little sod, isn't he?' she observed, watching Mikey introduce Bida to a dead geranium or some such. 'It must be even scarier when you have kids, something like this.'
She shook herself a little and turned back towards the house. 'Let's go and see if there's anything left in the kitchen so Jo doesn't have to.'
Mikey, I think, picked up on the word 'kitchen'. 'Hungry, Mummy!' he remarked, so I held his hand and followed Deb inside. From upstairs came the sound of running water, and I reckoned that Joanna must be washing herself, and wondered briefly if it would be totally insensitive to ask if I could do the same. The hall was narrow, leading directly into the kitchen, which kind of opened out from it and was bigger than it had appeared when we'd glanced at it. French windows at the back of it stood wide open, and though we'd seen the signs of trashing and looting, what we didn't see until we were actually into the damned room was the body in the corner. Deb gave a hiss and a step back, nearly squashing Mikey, and I snatched him up instantly.
'Don't let him see, for fucks' sake!' she yelped. I don't know if he saw anything or whether her shock got through to him, but he started to cry and so did Rosemary, and we backed rapidly out, bumping against each other in the hallway.
'Shit,' I muttered, then winced, having always tried not to swear in front of Mikey. Deb and I made it back to the front garden and she sat down on the little stone bench by the birdbath, still cuddling Rosemary to her, closing her eyes. I didn't want to close mine, thinking that what I'd seen would be imprinted on my eyelids, so instead I concentrated on Mikey, setting him on his feet and starting to chatter to him about the leaves and the flowers.
Joanna came out to us a few moments later, lugging a bulging holdall in one hand and carrying a bright pink teddy in the other. She'd changed into jeans, trainers and a pale yellow button-fronted sweater with a lightweight navy raincoat on top, and put her hair up. She looked better than she'd done in all the time I'd known her, and I remember noticing that she had put on both earrings and a bit of makeup, and that it seemed a bit of an odd thing to do, pretty much over her husband's dead body.
Dead body. There was a dead body in her kitchen, too. I thought I might throw up again but my stomach was probably too empty.
'OK,' she said, not making it a question, and then. 'Rosemary, look, here's Teddybaby!' She dumped the holdall on the path and bent over to pick up her daughter, juggling baby and teddy, and Rosemary, like most babies, was instantly distracted by the toy and stopped screaming. Joanna looked at the pair of us. 'You said the kitchen's been looted?'
'Yeah.' Deb got to her feet. 'And, er, one of the looters didn't get away. There's a body in there.' Joanna's eyes widened. 'Maybe we should go now,' I said. 'I don't think there's anything much left in your kitchen.' And I wanted to get the hell away from that house. Car or no car, I wanted to be somewhere else, preferably back at Deb's where there were bars on the windows. We could go back via the precinct and liberate some more food and nappies from the supermarket or something.
Joanna frowned. 'Is the buggy there? Did you see Rosemary's buggy? Only it's a better one and I'd rather take it, and leave that old junkheap.'
We hadn't noticed, and said so, and there was a moment's silence.
'I need my car keys, as well, they'd better be there,' Joanna said firmly. She turned and stepped back across the threshold.
'This is my bloody house. I don't care who's dead in my kitchen, it's my house.' Carrying Rosemary, she stomped back down the hall, and Deb, with a shrug in my direction, followed her. I really didn't want to go in that place again, so I sat down on the bench and let Mikey go on with his explorations of the plant pots. I didn't care for Drake Manor Place at all, but I wasn't yet ready to walk out alone into the great unknown.

frenchfancy Wed 20-Jun-12 07:18:26

Great - I like that there are doubts about Joanna starting to creep in.

SkinnyVanillaLatte Wed 20-Jun-12 07:33:30

Still enjoying it!! I liked the dead body in the kitchen.


R2PeePoo Wed 20-Jun-12 14:37:27

I wish I hadn't read that before going to bed last night gave me nightmares.

Was excellent though.

SkinnyVanillaLatte Thu 21-Jun-12 09:33:42

I have now read 'Fighting to survive' and 'Siege'. I have to say they were an enjoyable read,despite the fact that they deviated a little from what I would usually go for.

You can tell I haven't been doing a lot other than reading grin...

R2PeePoo Thu 21-Jun-12 11:00:25

I'm struggling a little with Feed, I keep putting it down and taking a while to pick it up again. Hoping the second one is better. Would have preferred the story from an Irwin perspective I think, than a Newsie.

Flesh Eaters is better although its taken a while to get to the faster paced stuff I want. Nice catastrophe writing though, the zombies are just a nice added extra.

Took a detour and read 'Undead' by Kirsty McKay which is YA with zombies. It was excellent at first but the zombies tailed off after a while. It was nice and short though. My favourite YA zombie/infected stuff has to be Charlie Higson and also Jonathon Maberry still, they are much better written.

R2PeePoo Mon 25-Jun-12 14:03:37

Any chance of more of your story SGB?

I finished Feed but gave up half way through Deadline. I found it was less of a zombie novel and more political/crime etc with incidental zombies. Which is fine, but I just couldn't concentrate.

SkinnyVanillaLatte Wed 27-Jun-12 09:17:37

R2,I completely get where you're coming from with the Mira Grant books.

I've just got a second hand copy of Plague by Graham Masterton. I remember reading and enjoying it many years ago - it'll be interesting to see if it's still so enjoyable.

(I also have picked up a 2nd hand copy of Cell by Stephen King as mentioned in this thread.)

Bah humbug to Cell - it's derivative pap! I much preferred his work when he was drunk/high grin King is either brilliant or utterly dismal though, and different people who agree seem to split his work into the same two divisions as I do, but we don't always agree which "list" is the good one and which is the crap one grin
Brian Keene's The Rising and City of the Dead are really good - he puts some great original twists into the traditional zombie stuff. One thing though, don't buy the first without making sure you can get hold of the second as soon as you finish it - it is one of the most gripping heartbreaking cliff hangers I have ever read. I almost cried with frustration waiting for the second one to arrive so I could find out what happened next!

comixminx Wed 27-Jun-12 13:01:26

Cor - SGB's story is pretty exciting! The way it ends up laid out on MN - quite wide IYSWIM - means I am skimming a bit but it is definitely gripping.

I just finished a great anthology on the Kindle - it's "Pandemonium - Stories of the Apocalypse" edited by David Bryher.
Each story was inspired by one of the paintings of John Martin, and they were all good grin

frenchfancy Thu 05-Jul-12 17:57:21

Where are you solid? We are waiting for the next bit of the story.

SkinnyVanillaLatte Fri 06-Jul-12 20:20:32

I have just given up on 'Monster Planet' by David Wellington as it really wasn't my cup of tea at all.

I have started watching the series of 'Jericho' as recommended here,though,and I'm enjoying it thus far.

I haven't delved into 'Cell' yet PomBear (tbh I forgot I had it as it became buried in a teetering pile of school letters and old rubbish 'paperwork to action' pile) - it'll be interesting to see which camp I fall in to grin

archfiend Fri 06-Jul-12 20:35:08

Just whizzed through this thread picking up a few recommendations along the way. Don't know if anyone has mentioned these yet but The Gone Away World and Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway are both well worth reading.

crescentmoon Sat 07-Jul-12 21:10:11

i read the gone away world last year, it was so well written and really original. has he written another book since? im going to read up reviews on amazon now.

and another recommendation - maria v snyder touch of power. i read it last year and really enjoyed it, post apocalyptic and fantasy/magic too.

im currently reading robocalypse and stopped and started initially but now enjoying it, written in same style as world war z except its about robots taking over the world and starting a war with mankind. nowhere as good as max brooks but the writer is good.

i tried to read monster nation but i don't like talking / intelligent zombies so i put it down. had bought the whole trilogy before realising.

crescentmoon Sat 07-Jul-12 21:14:55

anyone else a fan of robert jordan's wheel of time series? do you realise that the world of rand mat and perry is actually a post apocalyptic world? one of my all time favourite series and iv ben reading the books for the last ten years, now waiting for book 13 - and getting angry everytime i see a new brandon sanderson book in the shops when he should be working on finishing the wheel of time!

archfiend Sat 07-Jul-12 21:25:40

crescentmoon Angelmaker came out in Feb of this year I think-I read it on a long flight and it was brilliant. Think he's also written a non-fiction book but I havent read that.

Robocalypse keeps coming up on my amazon recommendations - is it worth getting?

crescentmoon Sun 08-Jul-12 14:39:12

hi archfiend i read the reviews of angelmaker, some reviewers said it was better than gone away world so i will definitely try and get hold of it!

robocalypse is good, i am halfway through. i wonder if there are other books with a similar theme - robots taking over the world - to read.

i saw the amazon kindle being sold in tescos for 109.99, i am really tempted to buy it. i am the type of person that cant read a book more than once so im constantly buying books and then giving them to my local charity shop periodically because of the clutter. i liked what an earlier poster said about the kindle in that respect. but can you get hold of books just published in the states on a kindle or do u have to wait for the book to be published in the uk before it becomes available for download?

archfiend Sun 08-Jul-12 17:30:32

Hi, I'll give Robocalypse a go then!
I have a kindle and I love it, I also have ridiculous numbers of books so it has been a great space saver for me. I think you need an account to download books from the US but I haven't needed to yet do I'm not sure how it would work.

YohoAhoy Sun 22-Jul-12 10:31:23

Have been happily taking suggestions from this thread (all my recommendations have been made already), and something very odd happened - had to share smile

Ordered Empty World from the library. Started reading it, and realised it was very similar in set up to the beginning of Day of the Triffids, yet written 20 years earlier. Had a bit of a Goolge, then came back to this thread to see if anyone had said anything about it. Only to discover I was reading a different Empty World. Mine's by D E Stephenson, a writer known for her romantic fiction, who just happened to write one post-apocalyptic novel.

It's very gently, and extremely mannered, with hugely wonky schience, but rather enjoyable for all that grin

YohoAhoy Sun 22-Jul-12 10:32:28

Interesting array of typos there - pressed post instead of preview blush

R2PeePoo Sun 22-Jul-12 20:29:46

Thanks Yoho

I'll look that one up on Amazon asap.

I've got A Wrinkle in the Skin out of the library atm and am also reading the second one in 'The Forest of Hands and Teeth' trilogy. The first was very fast paced and full of teenage angst but I enjoyed the concept (fenced religious community/village in the middle of woods surrounded by zombies). Female main character albeit an annoying one.

What I am enjoying is a book called 'Savage Continent' by Keith Lowe, which deals with Europe in the aftermath of the Second World War. It is almost like reading a post-apocalyptic novel, mass destruction, bands of refugees wandering and looting, no police, government, no borders, no money, no factories/manufacture, law and order broken down, morality has collapsed, rape is common, farmland is abandoned, people looting supply trucks/robbing soldiers, soldiers trading tinned goods for sex with housewives, extreme violence the norm. People disturbed by grief/loss/shock/horror. Its astonishing that this really happened and was only 70 years ago.

Did I recommend "Wool" to the Kindle people? I got an omnibus edition, it originally came out in tiny episodes of a chapter or so each. I loved it - it's one of those where you put it down, then fifteen minutes later, you are so desperate to know what happens next, you get out of bed for "five more minutes" grin

terrid Tue 24-Jul-12 22:11:18

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

Did you write it or something terrid ? you seem very anxious to let people know about it hmm

BoreOfWhabylon Sun 29-Jul-12 15:49:30

I've been lurking on this thread - thought I'd let you know that John Wyndham's 'The Chrysalids' is being serialised on Radio 4. First episode is on now and it's v good.

Should be available on iPlayer

BoreOfWhabylon Sun 29-Jul-12 15:50:59


Really want to read some more chapters from SGB

R2PeePoo Sun 29-Jul-12 19:54:55

I happily caught the serialisation of the Day of the Triffids on Movies 24 this week, I saw it the first time around a few years back but it was just as good this time around.
If I get the chance to listen to the chrysalids I'll definitely take it (two noisy children on summer holiday here).

I've also read Tomorrow when the war began, can't remember if I already mentioned it above. It was OK (apocalypse is war rather than epidemic/zombies/natural disaster) but it was good enough for me to get the sequels from the library. I also read Plague by Jean Ure again, excellent YA, but far too short imo.

crescentmoon Mon 30-Jul-12 10:59:29

thanks for that heads up boreofbabylon i have looked it up on iplayer and am going to listen to it this afternoon. i love radio 4 serialisations, followed a classical serialisation "i claudius" every week without fail a while ago, hope this one is as good as that one was.

BoreOfWhabylon Mon 30-Jul-12 11:38:54

oooh - just discovered that the R4 serialistaion of 'The Day of The Triffids' is being repeated on R4 extra this week!

I was actually looking for the serialisation of 'Chocky', but couldn't find it. The entire TV series from the 1980's is on youtube though (was children's TV but still excellent, imo)

Back to post-apocalyptic reading (as opposed to listening/watching), one of my favourites is Doomsday Book by Connie Willis - time-traveller gets sent to the wrong time and arrives in a medieval English village just as the Black Death pandemic hits.

There are two sequels to Plague 99 R2 - they are "Come Lucky April" and "Watchers at the Shrine" but I think CLA had a different title in some editions too.

I love the Day of the Triffids with John Duttine, the more modern one with vile Eddie Izzard just didn't do it for me, they changed stuff and messed about with it, and I can't bear him anyway so it just wasn't the same.
Have you read "Night of the Triffids"? I've forgotten who it's by now, it's gone clean out of my head. It is a sequel, but written fairly recently. I finished it, and it wasn't bad but I never had the urge to read it again, it was a tad predictable and a bit meh but ok.

R2PeePoo Thu 02-Aug-12 01:06:03

Come Lucky April is also known as 'After the Plague' I think. I have them both on my Amazon wishlist but wanted to read Plague first before I bought them. They don't have good reviews but I like the sound of them anyway.

I quite like the Eddie Izzard version, but that could just be because of the terrible dearth of post-apoc drama on TV and I have a soft spot for Eddie. On Movies 24 they followed Day of the Triffids up with 'Flood' which was awful but I still watched it grin even thought I loathe Robert Carlyle, and today was the first two hours of 'Pandemic' which is ....well...they are trying...I can see what they are trying to do....

I haven't read 'Night of the Triffids' no, but my library appears to have a copy which I just reserved. Simon Clark is the author. I noticed that book 3 of the 'Tomorrow' series is waiting for me in the library. I'm enjoying them enough to seriously consider buying them, I can see why they won awards.

The Tomorrow When the War Began tomorrow? I enjoyed those grin they reminded me of Red Dawn, with Patrick Swayze swoon from the 80s. I had it on video but have never got round to getting a DVD if there even is such a thing.
I have got Threads on DVD - I used it for "school" when I was home educating no2 son, along with When the Wind Blows. I love that but it makes me cry.

R2PeePoo Thu 02-Aug-12 15:53:46

Yep those are the ones. Amazon has thrown up a DVD from 2011 which has gone on my wishlist. I think they are so well written and they don't shy away from the realities and horrors of war.

I don't have Threads <adds to Wishlist too> but I have read When the Wind Blows which just about broke my heart. I also read 'Ethel and Ernest' by him which isn't post-apoc but also incredibly moving.

There is a post-apoc called The Eleventh Plague (by Hirsch) which looks good but I'm waiting for it to come out in paperback before I buy.

R2PeePoo Fri 03-Aug-12 14:25:01

Just been to the library and got out Hater and Dog Blood by Moody, Xombies by Walter Greatshell, and Allison Hewitt is trapped by Roux (for a reread).

I spotted another one I have read this year and I don't think is mentioned on the thread 'X Isle' by Augarde. YA, world destroyed by floods and people scavenging, people being taken off to a mysterious island. Not brilliant and I didn't add it to my wishlist but someone else might like it more than I did.

crescentmoon Fri 03-Aug-12 16:54:07

i began reading X Isle, i stopped a third of the way through because its more closer to pre teen than post teen! as for david moody, i liked Hater - read it right through, started reading Dog Blood but put it down and didnt go back to it again for some reason.

SkinnyVanillaLatte Fri 03-Aug-12 17:04:33

I seem to be stalling a lot lately. I've got part way through (then put to one side to go back to) 'Metro 2033' by Glukhovsky and 'The Infection' by Craig DiLouie.

Don't know why,they're just not gripping me.

I have made a start on 'Down to a sunless sea' and so far,so good!

R2PeePoo Fri 03-Aug-12 17:31:55

I liked the beginning and premise of X Isle but didn't like the second half at all. Likewise Metro 2033 which left me a bit cold.

I have also got the third John Marsden 'Tomorrow' series book; 'Flood Child' by Emily Diamand (with Flood and Fire on reserve if I like it) and Legend by Marie Lu which I am 90% sure I won't be particularly bothered by (its based on Les Miserables apparently). I'm beginning to scrape the barrel a bit now.

crescentmoon Fri 03-Aug-12 18:15:49

Has anyone mentioned blood red road? Post apocalyptic YA but really enjoyed it. Bought the follow up book yesterday in water stones,started reading it this morning and a few chapters in its very gripping. Had been waiting for it online but people don't seem to know its published let alone found reviews!

R2PeePoo Fri 03-Aug-12 19:59:27

Thanks crescent, just added it to my library reserve list. I'm number 5 on the list so hopefully won't be too long before I get a copy.

I keep coming across that Blood Red Road one, but so far it's been full price on the Kindle so I haven't got it. One of these days they'll reduce it and I'll buy it cheap. I only pay full price for a very few authors now, and ones I know I will read again, or have read everything they write and am waiting for a next installment, and even then, I tend to wait for the paperback so the Kindle issue is cheaper too <cheapskate>

Skinny if yours turns out to be the "sad ending" of Sunless Sea, please will you let me know?
I can't track it down at all, his books are hard to find because all his pen names are a forename for the surname and it makes them really hard to search - it's taken me years to find the three I have confused and of course buying online, it's only if a seller is willing to go and actually read the last bit that they can check which it is... I'll track it down one day!

SkinnyVanillaLatte Sat 04-Aug-12 10:02:37

Pom,I was up till 1am reading it last night.Absolutely brilliant!

I'm desperate to know if it's the happy or sad ending,but I will not allow myself to have a sneaky look.....

(But I did clench my eyes up and happened to glance in a bookward direction from behind my hands shock and,sorry,but it's the 'happy' ending!)

You are a temptress making me do that. grin

DOH! You can join me in my eternal quest for a sad ending copy grin
I was just going to ask you something, then I realised you haven't finished yet and it would be a spoiler so I'll hang on grin <lips are sealed>

crescentmoon Sat 04-Aug-12 18:21:30

well pombear once i read a book i never pick it up again - only a few exceptions ever - so i have blood red road and rebel heart to give away (the latter when i finish it) i would post them both to you if you wanted! im really cnsidering getting a kindle because it would save me space and allow me to buy the books as soon as published in the US rather than waiting for them in the UK (right?). but i cannot believe they charge full price for books. i read legends by liu a few months ago and liked it, theres quite alot of post apoc YA books im waiting for the second books for now! like the mention of these classics, possible to get in local library?

They closed my local library sad Most libraries will happily order a book for you, technically they can get any book that's in print, although there would be a search fee to pay. Things that are "classics" should be in stock in most areas/counties anyway. Some librarians are lazy lax and will fob you off with excuses though, but if you insist, they are supposed to take the request. I hardly ever pay full price for a Kindle book, there are loads of brilliant ones free and dead cheap out there - if you get a Kindle I can send you a list of the ones I've read - loads of apocalypse and zombies and such like grin
If you're sure the postage wouldn't be horribly expensive I would love those two when you're done with them, thank you grin - I gave 12 black bags of books away after I got the Kindle, the house was groaning at the seams, so they had to go, and the Kindle is brilliant for saving space)

crescentmoon Sat 04-Aug-12 19:12:17

brilliant, when i finish rebel heart il message you for an address to post both to, no issue about postage!

i once ordered a book at my local library but i found even though i was second i waited ages because the previous person kept renewing the book. but i did get it eventually!

i have apple's ibooks on my iphone and i have downloaded some great free books. i wish i had the bigger screen ipad but if im going for the larger screen i might as well get the kindle. what really frustrates me is waiting for UK publishing dates, sometimes they are 8 months apart.

OOO thank you grin thanks
They aren't supposed to renew a book with a request on it - they can give someone three days so they have time to bring it back without a fine, but other than that it's supposed to come back. That said, the system doesn't distinguish between copies, so every copy in the county say, will have equal weighting in the request. So if your local library's copy is on loan and a library three miles away is on the shelf, that's the copy that will come.
I wait for the paperback if it's a full price book, the Kindle price drops then. I preorder them and they make a lovely surprise when I switch on and they pop up grin cos I always forget I've ordered them. That's the one thing I don't like about the Kindle, there's no basket or "save for later" it's either buy or don't buy. And Amazon have no way to watch an author or get a notification when they release a new book, so it can be ages before something pops into my head and I remember to check if there's anything new out.

YouBloodyWolf Sat 04-Aug-12 23:09:55

Has anyone mentioned the Hater books by David Moody? The first one in particular got me incredibly creeped.

He also wrote a zombie series called Autumn which is worth a go - a very low-key, British apocalypse, more quiet desperation and Withnail than shotguns and shopping malls.

Someone recommended On the Beach a few pages back. I'm a massive post-apocalyptic fiction fan but I just couldn't finish it. Too sad.

SkinnyVanillaLatte Sun 05-Aug-12 10:21:21

Stayed up till Silly O'Clock finishing Down to a Sunless Sea. No stalling on that one! I proper enjoyed it and couldn't put it down once the kids were a-bed and I had a bit of peace.

This morning I am faced by the tip my house is because I was too 'busy' reading to clear up....

Now then,do I invest in a little housework tonight or descend into squalor and start 'Then' by Julie Myerson?......

YouBloodyWolf (love the name!) I really enjoyed the David Moody books.
Have you tried the ZA Recht Morningstar series,or JL Bourne and his Day by Day Armageddon? I recommend!

I'm curious to know what you were going to ask Pom but concerned about spoilers for others! I will let you know if I ever happen across a sad ender. Is there any way of a bookshop being able to find out? What a shame about your library - I would be so lost without mine.Even though the hours have been cut I find a way to still go,around work hours,as I feel our support is so vital.

BoreOfWhabylon Sun 05-Aug-12 11:12:10

Amazon have several copies of Down to a Sunless Sea "with the pessimistic ending" - have just ordered one, thanks to recommendations on this thread!

There's no way to tell which copy they are Bore they all come from private sellers so could be either - the only way is to email and ask them to read the last couple of pages and find out confused And I'm not risking that much money on the off chance. I'll find it one day, either some seller will actually know which is which or it'll turn up in a charity shop or somewhere.

BoreOfWhabylon Sun 05-Aug-12 11:23:15

Oh dear - maybe I should have emailed first!

Never mind, will see what I get sent and, if it's the 'sad' one, will be happy to pass it on when I've read it.

crescentmoon Sun 05-Aug-12 11:33:25

i was crazy about S M Stirling a few years ago, has anyone read his post apocalyptic series? fab characters and story lines, dies the fire, the protector's war, a meeting at corvallis. iv just learnt he wrote more books on his emberverse series but i havent read the rest, might go back to it soon!

crescentmoon Sun 05-Aug-12 11:35:21

whats down to a sunless sea similar to? from the title i am imagining it to be like on the beach. i hate sad endings in books few adult post apocalyptic books have happy endings. knowing my luck il get my hand on the former than the latter!

SkinnyVanillaLatte Sun 05-Aug-12 13:55:59

crescent the closest I can think it's to is 'On the Beach', as you say,but more 'action-y' IYSWIM.

I'd have liked the sad ending I reckon,but I'm heartless and bloodthirsty when it comes to reading materials!

Sunless Sea stands pretty much alone - it's not really much like anything else. Even in the happy ending one there are a couple of bits that make me cry (one happy, one sad) From my hopeless searches, I think the happy ending copies are much more common than the sad ones, so chances are you would end up with the happy one.
The name SM Stirling is ringing a bell but I can't think what it is of his I've read. I think I thought he was a she too grin so am off to FF to see grin

crescentmoon Mon 06-Aug-12 19:03:18

hey pombear i finally finished reading rebel hearts this morning and really loved it. i can still post blood red road and rebel hearts to you, pm me an address you would like it to go to and il head to the post office tomorrow. rather that than both join a growing pile of books bound for my local charity shop!

YouBloodyWolf Mon 06-Aug-12 20:19:56

SkinnyVanillaLatte - I read Morningstar and really enjoyed it, kind of liked Day by Day Armageddon but found the US survivalist thing a bit tedious in parts. Presumably you've read World War Z? I love that book, hope the movie doesn't screw it up too badly.

After America by John Birmingham is worth a go - the premise is that a vast 'dome' of energy appears out of nowhere one morning over the USA, killing everyone within and blocking access. The rest of the book is about what happens in the rest of the world and with the surviving Americans. The dome thing is a bit of a McGuffin but he handles it well. He did a series called Axis of Time too, about a US battle fleet from about 2030 or so being zapped back to WW2. Sounds kinda cheesy but it really works - you can tell he's having a major geekout with the history, but it's still very character-driven. He's Australian, which adds an interesting perspective.

SkinnyVanillaLatte Tue 07-Aug-12 14:16:49

I am so excited about the World War Z film, YouBloodyWolf. grin

Naughtily sneaking off subject for the moment,has anyone seen the film 'Zombie Apocalypse' , and is it any good?

YouBloodyWolf Tue 07-Aug-12 21:49:13

I'm looking forward to seeing the Battle of Yonkers on the big screen grin

Haven't seen that film, always up for some zombie action though.

On the subject of the OP though, I'd be interested to know how many of the post-apocalyptic fans grew up during the Cold War? I turned 16 in 1989 and the threat of nuclear war was a constant presence in my teens. That's what started me off on it.

R2PeePoo Tue 07-Aug-12 23:11:38

Also looking forward to seeing WWZ although it will be in a well lit room of my choosing, no way am I sitting in the dark watching a zombie film with lots of other people (wuss).

Has anyone been watching 'The Walking Dead' TV series, I keep meaning to and have only watched bits here and there when I remember. Is it worth making more of an effort? I have the graphic novels already which I love.

I was 8 in 1989. My interest was sparked by lots of early visits to archaeological excavations with my mum (hobby archaeologist) as a very small child. I was fascinated by all the scraps and remnants that remained of a vibrant and powerful society that was mostly destroyed in Britain. Then my mum gave me a copy of 'Children of the Dust' and my interest was sealed.

I can't watch Zombie films or tv shows blush
I can read the bloodiest, spookiest, goriest stories ever with no problems, but if I see it on a screen it scares me too much and I can't get it out of my head when I need to. It is weird, I don't see pictures when I read as such, it's a totally different thing to watching on screen.

SkinnyVanillaLatte Wed 08-Aug-12 00:17:27

R2 'The Walking Dead' is definitely worth watching imo. Love it!

I also grew up during the Cold War.I absolutely remember a very real threat of nuclear war YouBloody. Really you would have thought it would have made us unable to stomach post-apocalyptic stuff,because I remember it as being a genuinely scary time. Strange innit?

crescentmoon Wed 08-Aug-12 12:38:47

for me its linked to my sense of foreboding about the environment and climate change. and dependency on high tech modern gadgets and wanting to know how people could live without them.

LordOfThe5Rings Thu 09-Aug-12 20:16:22

The Day of The Triffids is one I've read most recently.

I would love to read some more though. smile

R2PeePoo Fri 10-Aug-12 01:15:22

I just finished 'The Dark and Hollow Places' by Carrie Ryan which is the third in the 'Forests of Hands and Teeth trilogy. This one was definitely the best out of the three I think, the other two were well-written but lacking something but this one was excellent.

'Night of the Triffids' (thanks whoever recommended it) up next which has a very exciting B-movie style cover <shallow>.

Also finished Legend by Marie Lu (I finished it the day before yesterday but had to seriously rack my brains to remember the plot which isn't a good sign. I think I enjoyed it whilst I was reading it though) and Flood Child by Diamand which was a very good YA book but I'd love to see it as a properly fleshed out adult book; her world was very intriguing.

YouBloodyWolf Fri 10-Aug-12 11:43:27

Skinny - I think maybe we were trying to understand the world by absorbing it through stories. Or something.

BoreOfWhabylon Fri 17-Aug-12 11:13:38

So, my copy of 'Down to a Sunless Sea' finally arrived yesterday. I have just finished reading it. It was the 'sad' ending.

I am now almost overwhelmed with feelings of bleakness and desolation.

I will want to read it again (usually do if I enjoy a book - although 'enjoy' is not quite the right word here) but not yet. I'd be happy to send it on to anyone who would like to read it as long as it is returned to me.

If anyone would like a synopsis of the ending let me know and I will pm it.

R2PeePoo Fri 17-Aug-12 11:42:07

Bore I'd be interested in the synopsis please grin

BoreOfWhabylon Fri 17-Aug-12 12:17:02

No problem, R2.

I have to go out now so will do it later on, when I have time to do a semi-coherent good job.

I'd also be interested in a synopsis of the 'happy' ending (am assuming the book ends when the 'good news' is announced to everyone?)

phedre Thu 06-Sep-12 13:46:18

Thanks for all the suggestions here - I had many happy weeks working my way through the various suggestions.

Two additions to the worthwhile reads.
- I, Zombie by Hugh Howie who wrote the excellent Wool series. Basically the zombie problem from the perspective of the zombie. Disturbing but compelling. Hugh Howey truly is a gifted writer
- Angelfall (Penryn and the end of Days) by Susan Ee. Don't be put off by the blurb. Once you start reading you simply can't put it down until you have finished (it is short though). Another very well written book and very cheap on amazon at the moment as it is self published.

R2PeePoo Fri 07-Sep-12 13:23:55

Here are a few more:

The Reapers are the Angels by Alden Bell (teenage girl surviving in a post-apoc world where the zombies are the least of the dangers. Well written, this story stayed with me, well-realised world mostly)

Night of the Living Trekkies by Kevin David Anderson and Sam Stall (Zombie alien creatures invade a Star Trek convention. Full of wonderful geekiness, well written, but if you don't know your Voyager from your Babylon 5 I'd leave it)

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and the sequel Dreadfully Ever After (zombie apocalypse in the late eighteenth/early nineteenth century).

Oooo Bore me too please - just the ending as afaik they are the same up until near the end, then they split for the "sad" and "happy" ends. If you ever want to part with it, please give me first refusal? I have searched for a sad ending copy for ages, ever since I discovered there were two versions.
I came back to this thread to recommend a new series I've been reading this week on Kindle. They are by P S Power - I think she's a she, but not certain. I read some of her other stuff (The Demon Girl and Keelzebub - they are good too, YA but amusing and lighthearted, nice easy read) and the Gwen Fariss series (2 so far) that are Steampunk, and then found her zombie apocalypse series. There are 3 out so far, with a fourth coming this year, and I am really enjoying them. They aren't just the ordinary "dawn of the dead" gorefest type zombie stories, there is more to them, and a lot more about the interactions of the survivors. The main character is called Jake and he is uttery believeable and "alive" on the page which I always like. The first one is called "A Very Good Man" and the series is called "Dead End". The first one is only 77p just now, and the other two are under £3 which is also good grin
If you like zombie/survivalist type stuff, these are well worth a look.

Just realised you asked about the happy ending of Sunless Sea Bore - do you still want a synopsis? I can send you one if you do smile

BoreOfWhabylon Sat 08-Sep-12 10:08:52

You have a pm, Pom smile

(R2 has already synopsisised the Happy Ending version for me)

jetstar Tue 11-Sep-12 08:13:28

I have just finished The Dog Stars by Peter Heller and it was quite good I thought.
Has anyone read Then by Julie Myerson? Is it good?

Manda472 Tue 09-Oct-12 11:27:02

I had a recommendation from amazon for "plague" by Lisa C hinsley, and only 77p. It's absolutely brilliant, really well written and I read it in one night. Admittedly it's only 150 pages smile

Def worth a read

'Then' is rubbish.

I just downloaded Plague Manda - when I looked I'd already read a couple of hers and enjoyed them - her short story collection is good, and I think it might even have been free the other day grin
I just read one called "Alone" - main character is called Ralph and it was good - not exciting/thrilling/all go go go but more of a cosy catastrophe type thing. It did have me wiping away tears at the end though and I enjoyed it. That was either free or 77p too.
The last one of the Very Good Man series is out now and they are great, you do need all four to get the full story and it had several great new twists on the zombie theme and was very original.

Manda472 Wed 10-Oct-12 17:58:15

Hope you enjoy it will definatley need some tissues for this one. Just downloaded her collection one which is free so thanks for that smile

I've just started on another freebie in amazon- This World After. It's a zombie one and so far so good.

sashh Thu 11-Oct-12 11:38:26


I'm half way through and it's free on the Kindle.

crescentmoon Sat 13-Oct-12 07:49:27

brilliant pictures of Zombie Shoktober event in Sussex from the Guardian. DH actually looked up some of the more outlandish props, many run in the region of hundreds/thousands of dollars!

I know it has already been mentioned but Mara and Dann by Doris Lessing is the best post apocolyptic book ever written. EVER.

I have just finished the Hunger Games which I loved and keen to read another post apocolyptic read, so this thread is great!

I just finished another freebie/cheapo on Kindle, called Big Sky about a family from Stornoway who are stuck at Glastonbury when the world ends, and their journey home again. It's another "cosy catastrophe" one aimed at YA so nothing very bad happens, no rampaging bikers or anything, but I enjoyed it.
I did enjoy Plague, although I also spent quite a while looking at the children and thinking "what if?" afterwards. It was sad but gripping too.

Manda472 Sun 14-Oct-12 22:31:17

Yes Pombear I felt the same about plague and read a lot of it with one tear trickling down my cheek, very sad but very believable.
Read it when there were the cases of Congo fever last week.......

SheldonCooperPHD Wed 17-Oct-12 10:21:26

World War Z is great

I picked up "The Enemy" by charlie higson, because I thought my boy would eventually want to read it, so wanted to see how suitable it was, couldn't put it down and bought myself the next one.

R2PeePoo Thu 18-Oct-12 14:57:52

I love that series SheldonCooperPHD.

The fourth one is on my Xmas wishlist and then I shall read the whole series again from the start.

<happy sigh>

jetstar Mon 22-Oct-12 16:43:39

Unfortunately I did buy 'Then' and I agree - it's not that great sad

Thanks to whoever recommended Rot and Ruin, I got it cheap for my kindle and am enjoying it at the moment (hope it has a good ending!)

R2PeePoo Mon 22-Oct-12 18:14:16

Probably me jetstar I am a little evangelical about that series grin.

Two more of them after Rot and Ruin- 'Dust and Decay' and 'Flesh and Bone'.

bran Mon 22-Oct-12 20:56:03

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

bran Mon 22-Oct-12 20:58:46

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

jetstar Thu 25-Oct-12 15:01:28

Are the sequels to rot and ruin just as good R2?

R2PeePoo Thu 25-Oct-12 16:42:48

I haven't read Flesh and Bone yet but I thought Dust and Decay was just as good. Jonathon Maberry obviously spends a lot of time thinking about zombies!

The fourth and final one is out next year - according to wikipedia its going to be called fire and ash.

hefalumpbecky Sat 10-Nov-12 20:51:42

Margaret Atwood- as others have suggested I would really recommend Oryx and Crake and the Handmaid's tail. Also read anoter by her can't remeber the name, something to do with a flood. Wasn't so keen on that one.

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