Originally published back in 1996, David Moody’s tale ‘Straight To You’ was the British author’s first offering – starting off a new career in delivering uniquely human take on end-of-the-world fiction.  Eighteen years later, in February of 2014, Moody released a completely reworked version of his original apocalyptic love story.  The following is a review of that revised version.

DLS Synopsis:
Since late July the sun had been unrelenting.  Now, supposedly in the middle of a British Autumn, and the sun was still beating down heavily on the world, without a hint of a break in the unprecedented weather.  But thoughts on the increasingly strange change in the climate barely registered with Steven Johnson.  Ever since his wife, Samantha, miscarried some seven-and-a-half months ago, Steven’s life had been spiralling downwards.  It would be fair to say that he wasn’t coping with the loss of their baby very well.  But the problem was he didn’t realise it.  His performance at work was deteriorating, and he had been subconsciously pushing Sam away.

It took a concerned colleague to finally get Steven to accept that there was a problem.  However, by now Sam was already packed-up and was on her way to North Wales with her father, Norman, to his home in Criccieth.  Steven didn’t want her to go.  It’s just he couldn’t simply up and leave work, even with the temperatures still soaring outside.  Besides, he didn’t exactly get on all that well with his father-in-law.  In fact, Norman made Steven’s life a misery every time they spoke or met.  And their utter distain for each other was mutual.

Meanwhile, the climate across the entire globe had been taking on some deeply worrying changes.  Images on the evening news showed the Arctic fringes now completely free of snow.  Across the length and breadth of Europe reports of half empty reservoirs and sun-bleached fields revealed desiccated crops too brittle to be harvested effectively.
And now, with Samantha gone, the terrible realisation of what was coming began to dawn on Steven as he sat alone in their home.  Around Madingly, people were beginning to panic.  Suddenly the highstreets were empty; everyone either hiding themselves away in their homes, or bundling their family and their most treasured possessions into their vehicles and taking to the roads.

And with that it hit him.  He couldn’t spend, what could well prove to be his final days, alone and away from the person he truly loved.  He knew he’d made more than a few mistakes of late, but now he had to see Sam again.  Although massive energy pulses were now blasting across the landscape of the UK, scorching the land and anyone caught in the blistering burst of light and heat, he nevertheless had to go out there and make his way northwards to Criccieth.  But he wasn’t the only one out there now.  The roads were practically gridlocked with vehicles sat bumper-to-bumper.

Over the course of just a few days the world had changed into one where none of the things which used to matter counted for anything anymore and all that’s now important is simply staying alive.  Nevertheless he still had to try to reach his wife.  But it would prove to be a journey wrought with bitter pain, loss, suffering, hostility and the constant certainty of the planet’s impending doom…

DLS Review:
The first question that you’ll probably be asking is did the original version of ‘Straight To You’ (1996) really need reworking.  Certainly if you look on this here website, you’ll see that it achieved an incredible 10/10.  In its original form it’s a remarkable story that is as touching and deeply emotive as it is utterly captivating.  But, as author David Moody states in his opening introduction “[He] loved the story, but despised the flat, two-dimensional characters, clichéd dialogue and awful writing”.  And to be honest, it’s not a statement I entirely agree with.  After all, did the original ‘Straight To You’ (1996) not successfully portray a Steven Johnson who would push himself across a blistering hell to reach a woman he had only just begun to get to know?  And did Moody not manage to make the sheer drive behind his actions seem wholly believable due to the wealth of irrepressible love that Steven felt pushing him onwards?  Emotions that could be seen, understood, and on the whole believed in, because of the depth of characterisation in this original story.

However, that said, this reworked version of the tale is an undeniable improvement.  Yes, I had given the original version 10/10, and yes, the new version still matches this rating (it could exactly score higher than its full marks), but I nevertheless feel it’s inappropriate to adjust the original rating purely on the basis that a reworked version has improved upon it.  After all, held up against other novels of a similarly high ranking, the original ‘Straight To You’ (1996) deserves it’s 10/10.  And so it stays how it is, as does the rating of this reworked version – but it has to be said that the 2014 version is still a marked improvement.

So then, why is it that I am showering so much praise on this new version of the tale?  Well, after over a decade-and-a-half of writing, particularly (and pretty much exclusively) post-apocalyptic fiction, Moody’s skills at writing has come on absolute leaps and bounds.  His early work had an incredibly addictive uniqueness to the way in which he brought to life his characters and their emotional journeys.  However, in this new version of ‘Straight To You’, the reader is able to see how his skills have evolved into something that resonates so naturally with the reader.  In his early books – ‘Straight To You’ (1996), ‘Autumn’ (2002) and the original ‘Trust’ (2005), the characters had a living breathing life to them that was defined particularly by their response to the situation that they were all facing, shadowed by their loosely sketched-out backstories.  Whereas, in his later work, the characters had all of this, but are much better-rounded and individually fleshed-out to such a deeper degree.

Yes there were quite undeniable hints of cliché within elements of the original version.  The near ‘love-at-first-sight’ drive behind Steven’s painstaking journey had a certain ‘Black & White Hollywood’ feel to it.  But I still stand by the fact that it worked.  However, now Moody has interwoven a greater degree of his signature ‘everyday Joe’ take on our protagonist – utilising a far more believable and true-to-life bond which pushes Steven onwards.

Not only that, but the gradually escalating destruction in this revised version is much more hard-hitting and horrifically realistic.  As you read the novel you’d swear blind that you can feel the temperature around you rising.  The hazy, smoke-covered landscape is described so vividly that it could so easily be the world just outside of your own window.  The desperate and terrified people that Steven observes on his way northwards seem to all have their own stories.  Their reactions, their fear, their eventual acceptance; all coming across in the blink of an eye.

In his reworking of the tale, Moody has incorporated a handful of supporting characters who join Steven on various parts of his journey.  Instead of the lonely near-last-man-on-earth vibe that reverberated within much of the original tale, instead we have a story that’s far richer in the humanistic elements of a host of other secondary characters.  The most notable of these is with Roy – a friend-of-a-friend who accompanies Steven throughout much of the first half of his journey.

The premise and the overall theme of the story remains the same.  At its heart is a deeply-emotional love story that exposes the heart-wrenching determination that is most likely within us all.  A near-unfathomable urge to be with the one who we truly love in such an incomprehensibly dire situation.  And it’s this inner-belief that, when faced with such a monumentally final circumstance, you would almost certainly do just the same (as unbelievably hard as the whole ordeal is).  And it’s this fact in particular that makes the novel such a downright compelling read.  You connect with it.  The very essence behind it resonates with you on a very personal and emotional level.  And for that alone it’s hard not to see the novel as one of Moody’s greatest achievements to date.

I’m not going to deny that the story behind ‘Straight To You’, both in its original form and in its reworked reincarnation, is one of my favourite tales of all time.  I’ve read a heck of a lot of end-of-the-world / post-apocalyptic fiction over the years, but it’s the brutal, truly human honesty within this novel that allows it to stand out from the rest of the pack.  And it’s probably the one and only apocalyptic novel that I’d ever suggest my wife read.

A truly breath-taking and awe-inspiring read from an undeniable master of this subgenre.  And it’s a novel that I can so easily imagine thousands of readers like me having a strong emotional attachment to.

The novel runs for a total of 249 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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