In the End is the debut novel from author GJ Stevens (Gareth). On the face of it, In the End is yet another zombie horror but don’t turn away just yet. This is zombie horror done right.
GJ Stevens started writing fiction at the age of thirty. Even as an engineer with a large family and a full time career with plenty of adult responsibilities, he has always had a creative side. After years of self-suppression, the flood gates opened and his novel In The End is the culmination of many years of finding time from nowhere to learn the craft.
Their fight for survival is only the beginning.
As stated above, In the End sits in the zombie horror genre. We join the story just before things take a turn for the worst meeting our main character, Logan. Logan is away with a group of friends at a holiday cottage in Cornwall, near Land’s End. The power goes out though the biggest concern the group have at first is running out of alcohol. As annoyance grows within the camp, word starts filtering through that a power station may have been attacked by terrorists, thus causing the power outage. News continues to come through suggesting it was an attack on a nuclear reactor in Somerset. It’s okay though, the reactor is safe but much of the power in the Southwest has been lost. There is no immediate danger. Being late, Logan and his friend Andrew return to their cottage and turn in for the night alongside their group.
Things change when they are woken by a banging on the door in the early hours of the morning. Logan, half asleep, partially understands the message shouted at him. The essence of it being, run, evacuate. As Logan tries to explain to a disbelieving group, they decide to head to the management office for more information. Unfortunately all they find their is a locked door and a note telling any reader to head North. Within 30 minutes the slightly sceptical group of ten friends have piled in to 3 cars with their belongings and start their procession away from the possible radiation leak.
The journey North starts well enough but odd signs start presenting themselves. Where is everybody and where are all the cars? Not long into their journey something terrible happens when the lead car driven by Logan hits an old man, standing in the road. Logan, being a decent enough guy is distraught at his accident. They try to call emergency services, they try to find his home nearby but to no avail and soon they have no choice but to hit the road again. Not long after this, they finally find where all the cars had gone too as they encounter a motorway chock full of abandoned cars stretching for miles. Investigations show the road has been purposely blocked with huge concrete blocks and realisation that the situation may be more dire than they have thought it to be sets in.
Investigating the blockage, they also run into plenty of dead bodies, including that of police officers. Shock aside, they do manage to intelligently gather a gun from an officer. Back at their own mini convoy, they find one friend Leo and a coupe others have headed off to look for help. The other two cars continue their journey onwards. It has been a few hours since they first heard of the need for evacuating and already they feel like they have been through hell. They are wrong. The further they travel, the more they see. More crashes, more pile ups and an ever increasing body count.
They come across a young lady, on the cusp of death, her face half blown off. Chloe, being unable to help other than to be at the dying girls side, kneels with her for comfort as she passes. Shortly after the girl passes, she opens her eyes and in a swift movement has a mouthful of Chloe’s face. With Chloe severely injured by what the group see as a crazed woman, they desperately seek medical help and a roof over their heads. Eventually they come across a supermarket and try to help the quickly fading Chloe. Andrew and Logan reluctantly agree that the lady was dead, and she came back. Hinting at the existence of zombies but they don’t really believe it themselves and the rest of the group certainly don’t.
They will soon though, starting with the launch of an attack on the supermarket as they manage to rescue two new people. Cassie and her sister Ellie.What follows in the pages of In the End is the story of real people struggling to come to terms with the world they are now living in. Unable to believe in “fictional” creatures easily, unable to fend for themselves but needing to adapt and quick.
They are in a dangerous world now with friends dropping like flies. The undead stalk from every direction, looters ransack houses that could be used for safety and even the military, believing the evacuation to be over attack moving groups from the air at will. There seems little hope at all. This isn’t a fight to win, just an effort to survive until the inevitable happens. Can Logan lead his friends North? Is there even a North to head to? Just what happened and importantly, who is this boy they pick up eventually who has been bitten but isn’t turning. There is always hope. A small glimmer of light in enveloping darkness.
Well, I went in to In the End hoping for the best but expecting the worst. Looking for every typical zombie theme and overtold tale but am delighted to say I was completely wrong. GJ Stevens has taken a tired genre and injected new life into the dead by simply doing a few simple but effective things. Good characters you can absolutely buy in to and get behind and the ability to build suspense. I absolutely adored Logan and, eventually, Cassie in particular. They are so easy to like, especially Logan. Watching him grow as the story progresses in as delightful as the story itself. A flawed character who is out of his depth but tries. You watch him fail, and falter but he drags himself up again and perseveres. A great metaphor for life itself.
In the End also manages to be filled with suspense. Presumed key characters drop like flies, calm situations turn to desperate horror in a paragraph and you genuinely fear for the characters involved. Not knowing if they will make it into the next page. It is a credit to the author and his imagination but more importantly how he has a natural ability to translate that into words to feed our imaginations. In the End is a genuine page turner. The sort of book you find hard to put down. Also the sort of book that ends disappointingly but mainly because you don’t want it to end.
There are a coupe issues though. Honestly, I do feel it ended abruptly. Perfectly set up for the second chapter but I am not entirely satisfied I got an ending to Chapter 1. It is enough to feed my appetite for me and I didn’t leave disappointed, just felt like it cut short. Secondly, some of the grammar and sentences in the early parts of the book (Kindle Edition) aren’t formed brilliantly. It is never enough of a problem to hurt the book and story though.
I certainly wont end this review on a negative. Instead, In the End is a fantastic horror story full of suspense, danger and despair. A genuine page turner that takes a tired genre and shakes it back to life in style and with substance. Excellent effort and I cannot wait for the next instalment.
Grab yourself a copy of In the End from Amazon here . Find out more about the author, GJ Stevens at his Goodreads author page here and his website here. You can. and should, check out his blog, accessible here, for insights, interviews and more on being an author, and, well a human. Finally, check out, like and follow his social media pages – Twitter and Facebook.
In the End by GJ Stevens
The Final Score - 9/10