First published back in March of 2019, US author, tattooist, illustrator and amateur boxer, Dan Henk’s third full-length publication was the apocalyptic sci-fi horror novel ‘The End Of The World’.  The novel formed a loose sequel to Henk’s debut ‘The Black Seas Of Infinity’ (2015).

DLS Synopsis:
The mighty US had fallen, the once great superpower fragmenting into a maelstrom of feuding territories and warring factions.  The once trusted government are finally revealing their true faces.  Behind their suits and ties and promises for a better life, the reality of their self-serving greed and lusting for power is tearing down the fabric of society.

The US population have lost all faith in their so called leaders; those that were appointed to protect and serve them.  Society is collapsing.  Inherent trust in your fellow man has become a commodity no one can afford.

Amid the chaotic turmoil of this societal collapse, teenaged Aaron is desperately trying to find his own way in life.  His painfully conservative parents offer no support throughout the youth’s life.  They’re disappointment in their son evident in the very air they breathe.

But Aaron appears to possess a strange ability.  As the world falls apart around him, the troubled teenager finds himself hearing and seeing things that make no real sense to him.  Visions of people who are no longer alive.  Voices of the dead, calling out to him.  And a whole existence that seems terrifyingly disjointed.  A reality that shifts and splits and takes him from one place to the next in the blink of a blurry eye.

Meanwhile, an ex-military scientist has made off with undoubtedly the most powerful discovery the world has ever seen.  Making his way back from the Amazon jungle, this man, Dave, now occupies an Al’lak suit.  Akin to a Neanderthal manning the controls of an M1 Abrams tank.  The Al’lak are an ancient race, whose power and technology leaves mankind in their wake.  And now a sole human has this power at his fingertips.

In this chaotic and dangerously unbalanced new world, no one can trust anyone anymore.  Yet, lurking in the shadows and rubble of this madness, governmental cogs continue to turn.  The desire for power has driven those in the last vestiges of authority to explore realms that should never have been in the reach of mankind.

In a world brought to its knees by its own undoing, the true enemy is far closer than many dare to admit.  Trust no one.  Stay alert.  Keep hidden from view.  And maybe, just maybe, you may stay alive long enough to see the world potentially change forever…

DLS Review:
If you’re not already familiar with Dan Henk’s written work, then (although ‘The End Of The World’ is somewhat of a loose follow-on to his earlier work) the novel is nevertheless a near-perfect introduction to Henk’s style of storytelling and masterful genre-splicing skills.  There’s so much of Henk in this novel.  So many layers which combined, paint an elaborate picture of the man behind the gritty and gut-wrenching words.

This is an apocalyptic sci-fi horror which purposefully concentrates on the human element, rather than the exploration of a grander scope which such a story would otherwise suggest.  In fact, the apocalyptic scale almost falls into the background, forming the explosive backdrop and catalyst for the frenzied desperation and bubbling-over-anger that engulfs the tale’s characters.

But there’s so much more in this tale than the characters and the dramatic premise behind this wholly maniacal tale.  Throughout the length of the novel there’s a beating heart of gritty and hard-hitting social commentary that pounds at the doors of governmental and political rule.  Conspiracies combined with a vile thirst for power with those in a position of authority run absolute rife.  Hank doesn’t hold back one iota in giving his stance on these suited and booted leaders of the so-called free world.  So much so, that at times the novel feels like it’s marching towards a rebellious uprising for the deep-rooted distaste so many of us feel for governmental corruption.

A vast swathe of recurring characters, settings and themes from Henk’s earlier offerings culminate within the tale.  These elements are interwoven into the erupting chaos of the storyline, seemingly effortlessly, as if each mention in his previous work was a pre orchestrated endeavour merely paving the way for the eventual release of this story.

From the outset you’re greeted (in fact, you’re pretty much assaulted) by a barrage of gritty dilemmas and highly-volatile action sequences that thrust our motley crew of haphazard characters into a snowballing series of events which all eventually head towards a pretty damn impressive climax of textbook sci-fi proportions.

The structure of the tale, at times, can feel erratic and oddly disorientating.  In some ways it’s almost akin to Aaron’s ordeal.  Nothing, and I really mean nothing, can be taken for granted.  Within a short space of time you’ll realise that anything can happen in the blink of an eye.  Around every corner can be another explosive threat from any one of the sides at play in this madman’s game of chess.

It would probably be fair to say that the first half of the novel incorporates a great deal of Henk - the man behind the story – within it.  What I mean by that is at times the tale can begin to feel particularly autobiographical.  Aspects of Aaron’s plight reads like a venture that could very well have happened to Henk.  Whether there’s any reality in that, I don’t yet know (although I hope to find out in an interview with the author shortly).  But what it does do, what this sense of potential reality achieves, is an evolving storyline that manages to pull you in with an effortless ease.

One thing’s for sure though, and that’s there’s absolutely no let-up in the ferocious pacing and unrestrained exploration of imagination exhibited in the spiralling storyline.  From one character to the next, Henk jumps around the crumbling wreckage of society, with the next serious of gut-punches always lined up and ready for sharp delivery for when the roving perspective shifts once again.

The mention of imagination brings me nicely on to the almost Lovercraftian aspects of the sci-fi horror that forms the very foundations for the tale.  Although the story is very much written from the close perspective of the characters, at times the mind-boggling inter-dimensional aspects, and infiltration of ancient alien elements, draws unavoidable parallels with much of Lovecraft’s strange mythos.  The overshadowing bleakness only adds to this respectfully inspired air, which only enhances the swirling madness of the story.

I guess it would be fair to say that the tale can feel a tad overbearing, chaotic and almost confusing at times.  This is very much down to the complexity of the numerous elements and subplots that are all intrinsically interwoven into the bastardised tapestry of a tale, rich with uniquely fertile ideas seeking exploration.  What I guess I’m saying is you can’t for one minute take your eye off the ball, otherwise you’ll find yourself lost in a barrage of chaotic happenings that leap to the next explosive event without ever looking back.

Henk’s ‘The End Of The World’ is a tale that packs more bare-knuckle punches than Charles Bronson’s time behind bars.  In a novel bursting at the seams with creative genius, you’ve little choice but to strap yourself in and prepare for an onslaught of gritty-as-hell mayhem, as the world collapses from the provocative corruption of a bastardised government.

Armageddon has never been so fucked up.

The novel runs for a total of 286 pages.

© DLS Reviews



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