Book Review: A Silent Dystopia (Stories of A Quiet Apocalypse) by Various Authors
A Silent Dystopia is, as the title suggests, a collection of stories based within the A Quiet Apocalypse universe, meticulously brought to life by respected author Dave Jeffery. A Silent Dystopia (Stories of A Quiet Apocalypse) sees 10 of the most talented authors pen a short story each set in the A Quiet Apocalypse world, where they have the freedom to add their own creative style while hopefully staying true to and in line with the source material.
I have been waiting a long time to read this book having received a copy over a month ago. Unfortunately, as any reader should understand, I first had to finish an ongoing book which was then followed by a hectic Christmas period and a bout of our own virus, Covid 19, not MNG-U. It felt like the world was pulling strings to keep me away from A Quiet Apocalypse but ha, I win, at last.
As anyone who knows me knows, I am a champion of these stories, having successfully turned many a friend and family member into avid supporters through my constant chirping (I don’t tweet well) about their quality. You can also check out reviews of all 3 stories so far by following the appropriate links. A Quiet Apocalypse – Cathedral: A Quiet Apocalypse 2 – The Samaritan: A Quiet Apocalypse 3. Theses reviews should give you an idea of my adoration for each story as well as hopefully provide a reason for you to be reading them.
I must admit, as a regular wanderer in the pages of A Quiet Apocalypse, and a great admirer of Dave Jeffery, my initial response was a feeling of questioning why this phenomenal series was being handed off to other authors when it feels like it is still in it’s infancy, or maybe teenage years. Now, I get that might be an odd reaction. I am not an author, possessing just enough talent to press a few keys on this keyboard occasionally, but I imagine a story like this being precious, like a child or a pet, and the notion of just handing the responsibility of nurturing and caring for the loved one over to any other person, no matter how trusted, to be a frightening thing.
But then, when you look at the talent involved, maybe that helps with the nervousness and it becomes more like sending your loved one off with credible professionals that will help them grow and evolve, setting them up for later life. To find out more about those involved, follow the links on each author/professionals name.
Lets get stuck in but, note that before we go any further, while I have tried to avoid major spoilers, there are minor spoilers below.
Wolf Pit by J.A. Sullivan
Wolf Pit takes us out of England/the UK and to near Algonquin Provincial Park, North of Ontario, Canada. That in itself was a hugely interesting thing to happen as we have only seen the effects of MNG-U in the UK with little news of the rest of the world. Wolf Pit fills in a few blanks here helping us to understand the truly global impact of the virus. We meet Yvette. An elderly woman of around 70 years living in a survivalist fashion in a cabin. She reminisces about her days passed, her loves and losses and you truly get a sense of her loneliness and almost pointless existence as she forces herself through daily tasks from making jerky to leading wolves away from her home, to setting traps for food.
Yvette is well prepared but thanks mainly to a previous partner, Maxine. A true end of the world prepper who went through training and helped spend Yvette’s comfortable wealth on preparing bunkers and resources despite Yvette’s mockery. She did not believe in this “end of the world” stuff and, as life does to a person, it was her and not Maxine who ended up living with the fruits of her paranoia. Though it is Yvette who lives in silence now both from the virus and the fact she is truly alone.
The story really tells a tale of evaporating hope and impending endings. Wild wolves move closer daily, the traps are often empty or already emptied as Yvette moves slower with age creeping up on her. Still, if all else fails, there may be food in the Wolf Pit, a trap with spikes at the bottom of a pit to catch and impale any unlucky animal that crosses it’s path. A horrific device that Yvette avoids until she has no choice and the true weight of her sorrowful past and forlorn future comes to bear as she looks inside to see what she has caught.
Babel Hour by Stephanie Ellis
We return to more familiar surroundings in Babel Hour with the shadow of Cathedral looming large over England where we meet a group (a superfluity?) of nuns in a convent led by Mother Mary. The Sisters talk of plans for their Remonstrance. From what we understand as we read on, this Remonstrance sees the Sisters, still blessed with speech and hearing, head off to locations like Cathedral where they raise their voices, singing and roaring to the heavens in an act of dangerous defiance. Stalked by wolves, these acts of defiance it seems also allow them opportunities to take sinners captive and offer them up in almost sacrificial manner to the wolves. This keeps them close and offers safety while they do God’s work.
Cathedral is a different beast to anywhere they have raised their Babel Tower before and the risk is considerable with each member accepting the potential for death at the hands of Samaritans patrolling in and around Cathedral’s glare. These nuns are no stranger to danger though and have adapted within this cruel world to defend or assault, when the reason is righteous (in their eyes). Babel Hour is an interesting add on story. It doesn’t tell us too much that we didn’t already know about Cathedral but expands on the surrounding area even further with an exciting tale that still drips of despair as cults of different styles clash.
Shut Up, Donny by A.S. Mackenzie
Shut Up, Donny brings us back into the world of the well prepared and around 10 years after the fall of society. Donny is well set up in a bunker, taking inventory and talking to himself. Not that there is anyone else he could be talking to having locked himself away, alone, when the shit hit the fan. He is well versed at running his inventory and infrastructure checks having performed them every day for those 10 years. Check the food, first aid, water, generator, solar panels, septic tank, walls and seams before closing on the radio where he checks each channel for anything. Not that he has any hope of reaching anyone – it has been many years since another voice had penetrated his self made prison.
Until today when a broken, static filled void penetrates that void and informs Donny of a potential safe haven. While in any other universe, this might leave a reader expectant of a story detailing how a recluse breaks from his shackles and sets off into the dangerous world in search of civilisation, this short story works a treat in not doing that. Instead offering a tense and nervy take on the thought processes and inner dialogues as Donny struggles to weigh up his options. He has dwindling supplies, fears for his sanity and is, of course, lonely but the world is dangerous and he hasn’t stepped outside in so long. What if the voice was in his imagination? What if the safe haven isn’t real. You will feel the tension gripping you forcibly from the page as decisions get weighed and made.
The Courier by Kev Harrison
The Courier is set in the A Quiet Apocalypse world but has many similarities to real life news stories of today. In particular surrounding the fleeing of refugees and the smuggling of them/their escape into other countries and locations where they hope for safety and security. While the world of A Quiet Apocalypse offers little safety or security for anyone, in The Courier, the refugees are Harbingers (deaf pre MNG-U and used as scapegoats for the origins of the virus) and a small group of saviours have found a sort of commune for them, hidden away on a small island called Lundy outside of Bristol. We sail off with Saul, a fisherman to the naked eye but a smuggler of the deaf to those who need to know.
Saul makes regular trips across to the Brittany Coast, liaising with contacts and helping move people across to the island that now holds around 40 people. A dangerous game though as the hatred of Harbingers is palpable and their are other fishermen and plenty of eyes watching Saul, none more dangerous than The Partisans. An organised group (gang) who hunt Harbingers and deal justice in their Kangaroo Courts where only one sentence. Death. As The Partisans close in, Saul is left with unimaginable decisions to make where every outcome seems to lead to disaster.
The Invisible Girl by Raven Dane
The Invisible Girl, named Kandi, takes us to London a few years after the city collapsed. Kandi is pone of a few people left in the city and appears to be thriving. We learn of her troubled back story, moving through foster homes until eventually ending up homeless and alone on the streets at a very young age. When society was fully up and running, pre MNG-U, Kandi was an invisible girl. Now, in the midst of quiet chaos, that invisibility has become her armour. She knows the streets, the alleys, the hideouts. She moves silently, unnoticed and self trained in hiding her hearing. See Kandi is a Hark and that means she is a valuable commodity chosen either for life in slavery or death but Harks are not meant to be free to wander. So she hides, moving silently and keeping away from anyone else.
Her coldness to others came before the virus, beaten into her physically and mentally through the people she had met. That coldness now keeps her alive but under that hardened exterior, you can’t help but wonder if Kandi just needs to meet some good people to remove some of her walls. And so, forced by the need for new non leaky boots, Kandi heads reluctantly off into city scavenging. Avoiding animals that escaped from zoos, wolves and gangs of roaming gangsters that hunt Harks and Harbingers, she has little to fear until she has a run in with another Hark and is left with a choice to make. Protect herself and stay invisible, or take steps towards re-joining humanity by protecting others.
In The Midst of Monsters by Morgan K. Tanner
In The Midst of Monsters takes us inside one of these bands of rebels/gangsters that hunt and kill Harbingers, Harks and, well, anyone they feel like killing. A large group, led by someone called Boleskine who are in, or want to be in a power struggle with The Samaritans. Within their ranks, we meet Jack. Jack has cleverly found safety by hiding within this Mad Max like gang’s ranks but he has a secret. He is a Hark and should he be found out, he will be tortured mercilessly, or worse. No exaggeration. Boleskine and his crew are fucking nuts.
Something we see first hand with Jack as witness as a captive gets tortured including having his ears sliced off and watching Boleskine chew on them like he had found a nice bit of jerky. Though Jack has mastered pretending not to hear, he can’t help erase his inner thoughts on the horrors he is now part of, hunting his own kind and while not active in the torture, complicit in every way.
And so, as he is inducted into this hall of shame, he is given a weapon and sent off with a crew to take down a found safehouse of his own kind and has a choice to make. Continue hiding, safe but ashamed, or do something about it. As they arrive at the no longer safehouse, Jack finds a young boy called James hiding and it is decision time. Hand him over and stay safe, or try to help him and maybe lose everything in the process. The chaos that ensues is quite something in a story that ups the gore level to extremes in brilliant ways.
The Platform by John Palisano
The Platform brings us to a wonderful location I hadn’t really considered in a world such as this. We head to an oil rig or platform hundreds of miles out in the North Sea. A location that houses a collection of it’s original workers who have an uneasy trading truce with a group from the mainland. The rig is well armed and secure but even here the horrors of A Quiet Apocalypse and a Silent Dystopia are real. Something that we see in graphic detail when the traders believe there to be ever hated Harks onboard the platform leading to a huge battle for survival between both parties.
While this story lacks a little of the subtlety of some of the other stories here, it make sup for it in the set up, leaving you gasping for more when you realise this was only ever going to be an initial prodding. The traders are a boat full of people representing a mass of others on the mainland and they wont stop here despite the story having to. Damn suspense!
I Live to Serve by David Youngquist
Back to the US and onboard a ship at sea but returning to land near Seattle, we meet Jacob. Jacob is a Hark. Your first thoughts would go towards Jacob clearing being at threat and probably on the run but you soon learn that Jacob, and his partner Viaa (also a Hark) seem to be moving freely on the vessel which seems to have Samaritan like guards on it and captive Harks. They are heading for a place called Emerald City. Essentially a US equivalent of Cathedral in every way. If Cathedral is cult like, made of stone, almost village like and small, of course the American version would be big, bold and indulgent – like comparing Windsor to Las Vegas. But what on earth could two Harks possibly want at a place like this and why do they seem to be participating in the capture of their own? All reveals eventually in a story that really does jump off the page giving insane imaginative visuals that for me crossed somewhere between Randall Flagg’s Las Vegas in The Stand and a Mad Max scene.
Emerald City is insane – a civilisation of sorts but wow! A group of leaders oversee it with the head of these being Meaghan. We learn about the city and how they have electricity and a structure. Similar to real life, there is the ruling class and the rest of us. They survive well though having managed to create currency, employment and sport. Harks are treated as a commodity. Groups head out for salvage, collecting supplies and capturing Harks. These Harks are then integrated into society, sometimes. Depending on their skills, some are set to work in fields and some, younger females are inducted into a breeding program, a select few are used as part of the team of captors where their hearing ability works wonder in helping catch other Harks. Jacob suffers with the guilt of what he is doing though, as does Viaa, and their feelings of guilt and betrayal lead them to take drastic action. Building up towards an explosive ending, full of shocking twists and turns, this story is excellent and expands on A Quiet Apocalypse in sometimes brash but exciting way.
Do You Remember? by Steve Stred
Do You Remember gives us a switch in writing to a journal style which was a nice change. Written from the viewpoint of a young man named Dennis, near British Columbia. He has had a rough childhood, illness and alcoholism in the family, bullied at school – Dennis has always felt like an outsider. He found himself more and more at one with nature, feeling most at ease when put in the woods and forests, hunting and surviving alone. A practice that has probably helped him to survive this far into the worldwide catastrophe. So much so, that as home life collapsed, he found himself moving permanently into the wild. He forages, survives well and is content in his own company – so much so that it is many years before he needs to head back to civilisation for any reason. Imagine the shock when you realise you have essentially slept through the end of the world? Understand the horror and fear as you emerge from the wild into the towns that are no longer standing.
All you knew is gone but all is not lost – you still have your nature based home. You have survived this long, carrying on should be no real problem. You have some degree of health, your hunting skills, sight and of course, your hearing. Until Dennis realises that one of those commodities is now more precious than any other. Dennis is a Hark and enemies are closing in.
The First Samaritan: A Quiet Apocalypse Origin Story by Tom Jeffery and Dave Jeffery
And so we reach the end of A Silent Dystopia and what a way to end with Dave and Tom Jeffery taking us back with an origin story on the formation of this new world really. While it focuses on a man called Louis and his transformation from protective father into Samaritan, there is so much history in this story, it is an absolutely pivotal part of the series. We meet the man titled Prefect – the person we know of as the foundation behind Cathedral and it’s principles. We also see the start of the rise of Cathedral. It really does make you think in ways I hadn’t considered. With the biggest pondering coming from, surely after MNG-U struck, the world did not just instantly decide that deaf people, rather than deafened people, where the harbingers of all of this. Surely there was an instant decision to enslave those with hearing who would become known as Harks. How did a civilisation move from attempting to be understanding and accepting of all races, religions and abilities move towards being, well, monsters. I love that this story addresses that, even if just in this one corner of the world.
And what a typical human trait it was to have started it all. Manipulation. Specifically of a person who, after the loss of his wife and loved ones, became so over protective of his son that he his strings could be pulled in any direction needed to put doubt and questions in peoples mind. A safe haven of sorts, populated with a small group of hearing, deafened and deaf people exist together until this manipulation starts. The Prefect, like a puppeteer has a firm hold of Louis’ strings. He knows what he wants and he know show to get it. He has a masterplan for the rise of Cathedral, the new world order but first he needs a pivotal moment to happen to ensure his followers join the cult fully. The point where it turned. Where a good samaritan became a Samaritan.
Okay, I know this review is long – way longer than I intended it to be but after originally writing a review that summarised the A Silent Dystopia collection as a whole, I felt it did not do this book justice. Each story is so unique, so intriguing, frightening, exciting and desperate I just felt they deserved a small review each. So, if you made it this far, well done to you. As a fully in fan of A Quiet Apocalypse, I must say this body of work is phenomenal. Editor and caretake D.T. Griffiths has done astounding work in ensuring the overall feel of A Quiet Apocalypse is respected. Each author can be immensely proud of what they have achieved. To say my eyes and mind have been opened further is a massive understatement.
It often felt like the author didn’t matter. I mean no disrespect by that but just that the books were all written in such a way that they belonged and were in sync within Dave Jeffery’s universe. They are all A Quiet Apocalypse. Seeing the wider world was brilliant, the realities I hadn’t considered, like those on oil platforms, on boats, end of world preppers all just expanded the universe that much further. This is a phenomenal collection that would work almost just as well as an introduction to the world for new readers as it does for world expansion to those already onboard. The decision to then end this collection with the brilliant The First Samaritan story was just the cherry on the icing on the cake.
What an achievement A Silent Dystopia is.
Grab a copy of this amazing story A Silent Dystopia, now from Amazon, here.
Dave Jeffery Links
Amazon – Goodreads – Website – Facebook – Twitter – Demain Publishing
Caretakers of A Quiet Apocalypse, in A Silent Dystopia are:
Raven Dane – Stephanie Ellis – Kev Harrison – Tom Jeffery – A.S. Mackenzie – John Palisano – Steve Stred – J.A. Sullivan – Morgan K. Tanner – David Youngquist
With an Afterword from Chris Kelso, the original concept, editing and foreword from D.T. Griffith and cover art from Adrian Baldwin and Robert Segate.
A Silent Dystopia (Stories of A Quiet Apocalypse) by Various Authors
The Final Score - 10/10