I have just recently had the most wonderful run of books, starting late last year with Lauren Beukes's The Shining Girls, Charlie Human's Apocalypse Now Now, Sarah Lotz's The Three, straight onto Sarah's partner-in-crime (or at least horror) Louis Greenberg's Dark Windows and their third SL Grey book, The New Girl. Somewhere in there I also read the Deadlands Trilogy by Lily Herne (another Lotz collaboration, this time mother and daughter)
It only dawned on me recently that everyone of those books is by a South African author, (a lot of them by the same author).
South Africa is definitely going through some kind of genre fiction rennaissance and the fact that I know most of these authors personally is just a little disorientating for me, but also kinda cool.
In the last year alone seven authors whose names I first read in the Something Wicked slush pile have nabbed themselves international publishing deals, three of those six-figure deals.
Now that's all very well, but are they any good?
My feelings on Lotz's The Three have been made public over at Arcfinity, as for the rest of them?
Varying degrees of brilliant.
The Shining Girls is the book that probably needs the least raving from me as most of the world has done that already, and quite rightly so. For Beukes it is a gigantic leap in both her writing ability and storytelling techniques, not that either were lacking before, but The Shining Girls is in a different realm from Moxyland and Zoo City (both books I loved, by the way). I wait with baited breath for Broken Monsters.
|This is a book about zombies|
destroying the world. Also,
there isn't a single character who looks
like this in the whole fucking book!!
It was only after having read The Three that, feeling starved for more Sarah Lotz, I finally picked up the book and started reading, laying it face down on the bedside table at night, just like I used to do with the Stephen King's when I was in my early teens because the covers frightened me.
Not that I should've been surprised, but Death of a Saint is brilliant. Sarah and Savannah really hit their stride with this second book, it is much darker and a helluva lot more violent than the first (so why change the fucking cover, guys!)
By the way, there is a character named Saint in the Deadland books. This is what she looks like:
Yep, she ain't white.
Death of Saint takes our characters out of the enclave and across the South Coast of South Africa - it's a fantastic road trip book that offers both insights into just how bad the situation is, but also grows the characters wonderfully.
My only complaint is that Lele,. who was kind of with it and cool in the first book is mostly turned into a lovesick and jealous pain in the ass, but that is more of a personal complaint than an author complaint - she's supposed to be a pain in the ass - she's the pain in the ass character, for this book at least.
But all-in-all it's a great book that moves the story at a much faster pace and with more urgency than Deadlands did. It also ends with a helluva cliffhanger, so when I finished it at around 2am I immediately went in search of book three... only to discover that it hadn't been released yet.
So I emailed Sarah and begged.
By the time I woke up the next morning I had The Army of the Lost sitting in my inbox.
The cast and scale of the story suddenly explodes. After the general intimacy of the first two books (where you're following only five characters on their journey) this one multiplies the cast list by hundreds.
No longer are we traveling through the countryside or safely tucked away in the Cape Town enclave, now we're in the big city.
Army of the Lost takes place completely within the borders of Johannesburg, or rather what used to be Johannesburg.
It is by far the best of the three books, the characters, the pace and the story just pick up and fly. In keeping with Death of a Saint, Army of the Lost takes a further step into the darkness. The body count is high, and a lot of the time just not fair.
I tried to pester Sarah for the fourth book, but at the time she hadn't finished it yet.
Continued in Part 2 (coming soon).