Book One – Fire and Rain.
This is one of the very (VERY) rare books that I would read again.
Fire and Rain is book one of a tetralogy. (Yep, that’s the word for four books in a series. Who else thought it was quadrilogy? Just me? Okay.)
I have been raving about this book. Taff understands story. He knows how to create characters that you love, and is equally good at making characters that you hate. The pace is great. The set pieces of fear are imaginative and vividly realised.
It starts with a troubled guy named Adam. He is afraid of everything. On the day that we meet Adam something unusual happens. People who come into contact with him are killed by their own fears. It starts small, but escalates quickly. By the time Book One is over, North America is on the brink of a fear induced apocalypse.
I was going to start this review by saying it contains spoilers, but I’ve decided I don’t want to ruin the fun. All I will say is that I was enjoying the book right up until it got to a scene involving a group of people on a bus and a fear that involved The Wizard of Oz… That was when I started loving the book.
The story centres around three different groups of people and we shift between each group as the events escalate. Adam and Jelnik, the people on the bus, and three teens.
There was a moment when the third group was introduced; a jock (Kyle), a popular girl (Carli), and a nerdy girl (Sarah), and I thought, “Oh, god, here we go. Bring on the cliché.” But Taff deftly steers it away from what you’re expecting and you are brought into the dynamic of the group as they struggle with all the things Taff throws at them.
Book One ends in a big way. From this point on the world will never be the same. The more afraid the characters get, the more danger they are in.
Oh, I almost forgot to mention the narrator. Linda Jones is a superb reader. You don’t even realise she’s there (which is a compliment, even though it might not sound like it). I listen to an awful lot of audiobooks and Linda is a real talent.
Book Two – Water and Wind
Book Two sees the introduction of a new character; Reverend Mark. And with him comes one of the creepiest scenes in the story so far, involving a young boy named Dom. I won’t say anything about what happens but it proves the author can do small, fear-inducing, character-driven horror as well as the big imaginative set pieces that launched the narrative in book one.The mystery of what’s happened to the world starts to become clearer. Adam is a vessel for all the world’s fears and the vessel is full. It has spilled out into the world.
Mark meets a girl. Monday. She’s going to be important.
If you’re reading this review I’m assuming you’ve read book one and are wondering if you should continue. Continue fellow reader, continue. Even if it’s just to get angry at Carli, the traitorous little bi-…
Great narration from Linda again.
Book Three – Air and Dust
It starts with a pile of burning dogs.
Mark and the small group he has met along the way arrive at an army base. On the first night the base is attacked.
There is a moment where Rev Mark, and the rest of the camp, are being attacked by swarming- well, I won’t say what, that would spoil the fun- and he does something that should come across as absurd schlock, but is actually exciting and just what the book needed at that moment. There are rumours of an encroaching darkness. A wall of sheer black spreading across the globe.
At the end of the book a man arrives with a convoy of people he has “saved” from other places. He tries to take over leadership of the army base and succeeds, but in doing so becomes the new villain of the story (god it’s hard to explain a story without spoiling anything). I’ll say this. By the time book three closes you’ll hate him in your bones. You’ll feel it in your gut. His name is Tim Jacoby and you’ll wish you were there so you could grab a weapon and reap vengeance yourself.
As with my previous reviews, hats off to the narrator, Linda Jones.
Book Four – Earth and Ember
The darkness is closing in. The psychotic new leader, Tim Jacoby, has had a message from God; Thou shalt go to Memphis.
So there he leads the last people alive on Earth. Graceland becomes their temporary home. The last stop before the final confrontation with Adam.
We find out what is up with Jelnik; Adam’s personal slave. We go back to Jelnik’s childhood. The events described are awful, harrowing and terrifying. After the flashback, Adam assures Jelnik that things could have been so much worse, if he only he knew. Jelnik doesn’t believe it. Adam shows him.
At this point I thought, “There’s no way Taff can make that scene worse unless he goes over-the-top-corny with it.” Scary stuff can fall into absurdity very easily and lose its impact. It’s a fine balancing act.
So the memory restarts. Adam has turned up the fear. And… it… is… glorious. There are no limits to Taff’s disturbed mind. And god it’s fun to watch.
The last survivors leave Graceland to make their way to the last city on Earth to face down Adam.
Monday’s role in the apocalypse is revealed.
Rev Mark and Adam face off.
The ending is neither rushed nor prolonged.
Linda Jones’s narration was, as always, perfect.
A note on the serialization
I really have nothing bad to say about the story, the author, the narrator, the characters, the writing itself, it’s all great. But I do have something to say about the release of the book. It won’t affect the star rating, but I think it needs to be said, if only because I want to recommend the book to as many people as possible but find that I can’t because I’d be asking them to invest too much money in my recommendation. The price is far far too high. (If the Kindle and paperback editions are priced to reflect the shortness of each instalment, then that’s fine. All good and well. Serialization makes sense in those mediums. This is purely to do with the Audible release.)
I understand the reason for releasing it in a serialised form (in the tradition of Stephen King’s Green Mile, and the works of Dickens, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle etc.) But the reasons, in this instant, are driven by greed. A reason that rarely succeeds. The cost is too high. Each book is only about 3 hours long (apart from the fourth instalment which is just over 5) and most people only get one credit per month on Audible so he’s asking his readers to spend four months of credits on one story. That’s not much listening for a full third of a year. Especially when you can get seventy two hours of Sherlock Holmes for the same credit, and indeed The Green Mile in its entirety – 14 hours. I suspect it will ultimately have the opposite effect on sales and people will be put off by the combined high price. It won’t matter how much I, or other reviewers who have been lucky enough to get a review copy for free, rave about how great it is (and it is indeed great), the money grab leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
This is a book that should be loved by many more people than will be willing to part with the high ticket price. It would be sad to see the best horror I’ve read this year die because of an ill-considered route to market.
The book is being sold as an epic. And yet all four books combined are only the length of a single novel. It’s money for old rope. It frustrates me because if I hadn’t had the opportunity to review it for free I would have never gambled the £45.83 it would cost me (based on the current prices on Audible) to read it. It would have never happened.
I could get the stand for half the price (or one credit which is even cheaper) and it’s 47 hours long.
These things must be considered when it comes to releasing things in audio.
All four parts should be gathered together and released as The Fearing. I believe it would be a cornerstone of modern horror and many more people will discover it. People that really want to read it but can’t afford the comparatively massive cost would give it a go.
I would be the first to go to social media and tell the world about it.
It is a great book. One of my favourite of the last few years. If it wasn’t for that it wouldn’t frustrate me so much. I want the world to read it.
The one good thing about getting all four paperback editions is that the covers combine to create one big picture, which is pretty cool.