First published back in February of 2016, ‘Wasteland Gods’ formed British born author Jonathan Woodrow’s debut novel.

DLS Synopsis:
When the mutilated corpse of twelve-year-old Nelson Kingston is found by a dog walker on the outskirts of Brookwell, Billy and Megan Kingston’s worlds are torn apart. Having their young son taken away from them was bad enough.  But having it done in such a brutal and sadistic manner was agony.  And then, to pour further salt into the fresh founds of the grieving parents, Billy receives an anonymous email directing him to a website where video footage of his son being murdered has been uploaded for internet trawling sickos to see and comment upon.

The police have no idea who was behind the murder or their vile motivation.  The sheer brutality of the act sends Billy’s life into a spiral of alcoholic depression.  Every day he watches the video clip to share a little bit of the pain his son must have felt.  It’s something his wife can’t understand.  And as his obsession with the video and the comments being left worsens, so their marriage begins to collapse.

Billy becomes hell-bent on tracking down the individual responsible for Nelson’s murder and finally exacting his revenge upon him.  And after hours spent pouring over the most despicable of websites Billy begins to find common links.  A name emerges.  Someone who may know more, who may be the link he needs.  A dangerous thug named Ginger.  A man Billy knows he must make contact with if he wishes to further his search.

But with Billy’s reliance on alcohol worsening he starts visiting a local bar each night.  And it’s on one particular evening, when even the landlord’s had enough of Billy’s drinking, that he meets Dr Verity for the first time.  And from that moment onwards everything changes.

Billy’s obsession with reaping vengeance upon the one who was responsible for his son’s death is about to take a whole new course.  With Dr Verity’s help, Billy is promised they will find the man he seeks.  She has the ability and she has the resources.  But until that time Billy must help her.  On the desolate litter-covered planes of the wastelands, he will perform cleansing rituals on those that Dr Verity brings to him.  Through the rituals Billy will rid the world of those that will cause more harm than good.  Those who if left to their own devices would cause much pain and suffering.  Those who’s vile destines must be cut short.

Through Dr Verity, Billy has a chance to get his revenge.  His life will be split in half.  His existence will become a parody of itself.  But Billy knows that the end result would be worth the madness he faces.  Whatever was required of him he’d gladly oblige.  If it meant his son didn’t have to suffer and die at the hands of a maniac, then nothing that was being asked of him was unreasonable.  Nothing at all.

Vengeance will be his.  And maybe, just maybe, one day he will see his dead son again…

DLS Review:
For a debut novel ‘Wasteland Gods’ is certainly an ambitious one.  The storyline is complex and intricately involved, with more twist and turns than you can shake a veritable stick at.  In a nutshell what you have here is a cosmic horror that leans a tad less towards the horror side of things and far more towards the repercussions of time-shifting and the existence of parallel lives.  To that end it’s probably fair to say that it’s also got its feet firmly buried in sci-fi, as much as ‘Donnie Darko’ (2001) or the like have.

However the horror’s still there.  It’s in the form of bone-shattering violence of a truly sadistic level.  Think ‘8mm’ (1999) style snuff, with a young twelve-year-old boy made to be the victim.  It’s hard-hitting and utterly uncompromising in getting under your skin.  Furthermore, Woodrow depicts the murder in a heart-wrenching vividness – the pain and horror felt by the young lad so hauntingly real it leaves you gasping for air.

With your head still reeling from these scenes, Woodrow suddenly takes the course of his story off in an unexpected new direction.  Vengeance remains at the heart of the tale.  It’s Billy’s core motivation to pursue the mind-boggling path he’s being led down.  Along with this you can also throw in the gradual deterioration and collapse of his marriage, self-destructive alcoholism, and an almost endless spiral of depression.  The result is unsurprisingly a storyline wrapped up in some pretty grim looking bandages.

Nevertheless one of the absolute key strengths to the tale is with the characterisation.  Woodrow brings to life each and every one of his characters – from his revenge-fuelled grieving father, to the candid and brutally upfront bartender Marlon, to the inhuman criminal Ginger, and finally to the recovering junkie Rena Hamley.  Each one has their own unique story, their own personality and painfully believable traits.  And it’s this characterisation that’s undoubtedly the glue holding the intricate complexities behind the story together.

The interaction between the characters is where things also start to get interesting.  Billy’s life is in bitter turmoil and his exposed emotions start feeding off those around him.  The foundations for a love/hate relationship with Marlon begins to strengthen itself.  And his broken marriage gradually bleeds into a new life with Rena Hamley.  Oddly the ex-junkie’s character arc (which is one of the most drastic) is a strangely undetailed one – with the colossal change in attitude and rebuilding of her life just taken as a given.

What you get with ‘Wasteland Gods’ is an absolute battleground of ripped raw emotions.  It’s a mind-blowing trek into the limitless chaos of the cosmic unknown.  The stark brutality of utter despair is held up in direct contrast to the puzzling concepts of alternate dimensions and re-routable time.  It’s a careful knitting together of gut-wrenching empathy alongside the rewriting of our principal belief in time and space.  And as mind-boggling as it sounds - somehow Woodrow’s made it all work.

Everything you once took for granted is about to be messed with.  Prepare to be ripped to shreds, flung into the unknown, and then reassembled into something unnervingly different on the other side.

The novel runs for a total of 350 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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