First published in March of 2011, British author Iain Rob Wright’s debut novel ‘The Final Winter’ found itself falling snugly into the recently popularised post-apocalyptic revival that had seen a sudden resurgence of similarly ‘end of the world’ themed tales.

DLS Synopsis:
Ever since Harry Jobson’s wife and son had died at the wheels of a convicted drink driver, Harry’s life had been a constant and purposeful descent into misery and drunken despair.   Night after night the unemployed thirty-one year old spends his life drowning his sorrows in alcohol at his local – The Trumpet.  And tonight was no exception.  The usual faces were in the pub with him, each drinking alone, passing the hours with just their pints for company.  The only thing that was different from every other night was the weather.  The snow was falling heavier than anyone could ever remember it having done.  And not just where they were…but across the entire world.

When the power cuts out, the pub and the rest of the snow-covered street is left in complete darkness.  The pub’s longstanding barmaid Steph is the first to jump into action – gathering together candles for some form of light.  The sudden arrival of Lucas – a charismatic Irishman that strangely none of the locals had ever laid eyes on before, quickly brings the group together.  Those taking shelter from the unrelenting blizzard outside are far from a solid knit of personalities.  Old Graham – the local old drinker, Nigel the long-distance lorry driver and Damien the young drug dealing thug, together with Harry, Lucas and Steph make up the entirety of the group.

With the snow falling heavily and the temperature steadily dropping, drastic measures are certainly needed.  And Lucas seems to be the man to bring them all together in this desperate time of need.  But the snow and the dropping temperature suddenly becomes just one in a long line of life-threatening problems that face the group.  Everything suddenly becomes a hell of a lot worse when the mutilated body of the Polish supermarket employee – Peter, comes crashing through the pub window.  And carved into the flesh of his chest is the message “Send out the sinner”.

Suddenly this is hell on earth.  Outside beastly hounds from hell are roaming the surreal white landscape, where visibility is near impossible.  Others from nearby shops are seeking rescue, when the first of the savage attacks occur.  There’s a hell of a lot more out there than just snow…

DLS Review:
Wright starts off the tale setting down a nicely localised post-apocalyptic scenario that encapsulates a very British setting, with a handful of well-developed characters bringing together a very character driven storyline.  The tale itself stands firmly with its very British roots throughout, playing with the clashing personalities of the realistically portrayed characters from within this very small locale.

The novel unashamedly homes in on just this very small location within a much more expansive and grander apocalyptic premise.  Drawing together a religiously themed premise from the likes of Stuart Vowells’ ‘The Lucifer Wars’ (2005) or indeed John Prescott’s  ‘Pray’ (2010), Wright zeroes in on how one small group of individuals battle against all odds in order to hopefully survive the long perilous night.  Very much in the similar vein as one of Ian Woodhead’s apocalyptic scenarios, such as with his tale ‘Shades Of Green’ (2010), the reader finds themselves watching a very close-knit reaction to these monumentally devastating events, somewhat diminishing the otherwise epic scale of the scenario.

Just when the reader begins to think that they have an understanding of where the tale is going, Wright throws in a whole new twist to the tale’s direction, nicely throwing the reader off-guard once again.  As piece by piece the novel gradually (and I really mean gradually) begins to take form, Wright pumps up the pace with sporadic splatters of action, bringing the novel to a dramatic and compelling finale.  This final showdown (nope – I won’t give away with whom) is slightly clumsy with its actual execution, but remains satisfying with its broad wrapping up of the tale. 

The handful of additional subplots that constantly run alongside the main thrust of the tale, are what really make the novel what it is.  Okay, so the ‘religious-apocalypse’ backdrop is by far and away the main thrust for the tale, but the Richard Laymon-esque gritty substories breathe a much needed energy into the otherwise struggling plot.

The novel reads very much like a debut, with the author’s writing style not really found.  At times the pace does begin to show signs of sagging, with a touch too much emphasis on the interaction between the characters rather than slinging down another impactful scene of action and horror.  However, Wright has still achieved a hell of a lot with the novel, pulling together an enjoyable and quite light-hearted apocalyptic romp.

The publication also includes the following bonus short story:

The Peeling of Samuel Lloyd Collins – 9 Pages
Already 90% of Europe has been affected by the disease popularly dubbed ‘The Peeling’.  Like its named suggests, the symptoms that ultimately result in the infected person’s death, are a slow disintegration of the body.  Flesh falls off piece by piece.  Toe nails slip off, hands rot away and pus filled sores drop from all across the body.  And one man sits there recording his and the entire world’s downfall.  One man who wants just one answer.  Who’s responsible?

Gloriously gory from the outset, this miniature end of the world scenario wallows in the splatterpunk sickness of the short tale, feasting on the first-person-perspective of the human deterioration offered by the writings from our narrator’s diary.  Very much in the same grotesque vein as Phil Smith’s ‘The Incredible Melting Man’ (1978), Guy N Smith’s ‘The Festering’ (1989) or indeed David Cronenberg’s film ‘The Fly’ (1986), the short delights in the repulsive elements of the narrator’s collapsing body, until a final, almost by this time irrelevant, twist ending concludes the twisted little tale.

The book as a whole runs for a total of 352 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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