Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Each New Morn: A Review

L.G. Thomson's Each New Morn is a pandemic apocalypse with some zombie-like elements set in contemporary Scotland, starting in the area of Dundee, and settling in at a rural area somewhere south of Inverness along the A9 (highway).

This may be the least appealing cover, even a Kindle self published one, that I have run across yet. The novel was accidentally published early, and this is actually the revised cover The novel's trailer is howlingly campy as well.

L. G. (Lorraine) Thomson (1964- )was born in Glasgow, and grew up in Cumbernauld. Dundee, the novels starting point, is where she graduated from Art School. She has two daughters, and now lives in Ullapool on the northwest coast of Scotland. 
The basic plot instigator is that a sudden global pandemic, a rogue prion causing what is called the Falling Down Flu, wipes out  90-something percent of the population.  A small fraction of the "survivors" come down with a rabies like disease giving them a nasty zombie-like personality.   As is fairly common with contemporary zombie fiction, the zombies fairly quickly get replaced by nasty people as the ultimate threat.
The plot line starts with two separate survivors that eventually, as is obviously going to happen, meet up in the middle portion of the story.  The man, Shaw, is a collector of wayward survivors.  Realistically, a lot of these folks wind up being more a nuisance than a help.  The secondary die-off count is pretty large.  The second survivor, Chrissie, has various scary adventures before she finds a little cottage to hole up in.
I would say that there are three general threads to the plot line, all of them related to survival possibilities.  The first thread, is that group dynamics, and individual personalities, are probably the largest single factor in survival.  A small group of cooperative folks can generally make a go of it.  But getting a collection of strangers, suffering from the psychological impact of the death of family, society, and forcing to rough it a little for the first time, is a difficult accomplishment to achieve.
The second issue is whether is best done in larger, more cooperative numbers, or smaller more tightly knit groupings.  Shaw wants to collect people and skills.  That doesn't always work out.  Chrissie wants to hide away somewhere and avoid discovery.  That is also problematic as it is very difficult to eliminate all possibilities of discovery over the very long haul.
The final issue, is surviving the marauder types.  Within the story line both of the first two issues relate back to this one.  Group cohesion is important because the marauders can take over a group through infiltration as well as they can attack it.  Also collecting groups of survivors, along with larger encampments are most likely to attract the farthest roving, and thus largest groups of bad guys.  Of course little hidden groups, once found, will get stomped.  To add to all that is finding the balance between size, location, and site layout/defenses, that give the best combination of success. Of course in a place like Scotland, there are left over fortifications to be found that will help you along the way.  Granted if you had to choose, an early medieval site, smaller and often very hard to get to if it is an old refuge location, is probably more workable than the more spread out gunpowder era spots.  Or, you can, much like in Alex Scarrow's Afterlight, try hiding off shore.
Did I like the novel?  I would call it good, but not great: a conditional recommendation. The zombie-theme seemed heavily forced, and the bad guys you get to meet come of as simplistically evil.  Both elements tend to signal that, even within the Scottish glass is half-empty attitude, that the evil forces will not prevail.  On the plus side, the other is unusually, a glass half-empty sort of writer.  So it isn't a happy bouncy bunny wrap up at the end either.  The author is not into firearms or tactics, but doesn't try to push the details either, so she avoids the common technical mistakes.
We now come to our two descriptive (not qualitative) ratings: 1 to 7 with 4 the mid-point and 7 high. Realism does not include the cause of the collapse or apocalypse, but is otherwise an assessment of how close to today's world is the setting. Could you imagine your friends, or families living through the situation. Readability is not literary merits, but literally how quick and painless of a read.
Realism?  Well as I noted above, the screamers are a bit forced.  Zombies in Scotland no doubt have helped the book sell, which it has done, in Scotland.   The author doesn't seem to be aware that gasoline ages out pretty quickly.  But the author invasions the pandemic aftermath being dominated by the people that don't care anymore. They are going to loot and burn, and cut amount of left-over supplies down drastically.  So if short term supplies can be had at risk, the long term is much more questionable.  It is a five.
Readability is easier.  It is not a page turner.  Group dynamics dominates far more than the action scenes.  If there is any extraneous literary symbolism, I did not detect it.  Again, it is a five.


Harry Flashman said...

There's just about nothing "fresh" or new out there, anymore. This particular genre of fiction is getting overcrowded and boring, for the most part.

russell1200 said...

Henry: Wait for the reviews of "Noise" and "Peripheral". They are clearly different and I think good as well. In the case of Peripheral, it might be the best (only non-supernatural?) horror-prepper novel out there.

PioneerPreppy said...

Sounds like an interesting read to me. Just having it Scotland with the mixture of the old fortifications gives it a possible "new" twist in my opinion.

My real problem with zombie stories isn't the inevitable replacement of bad guys it's the fact that they seem to let these rotting hunks of walking meat walk around for literally years. I don't care how slow your metabolism get's meat rots at about the same speed.

russell1200 said...

Pioneer: These aren't the typical zombie and seem to be gone pretty quick. They seem mostly there to catch a part of the zombie market.

The book seems to have been a surprisingly good sell simply because it rambles at various times through a lot of Scotland, so the local market was drawn to it. I have no problems with that.

It doesn't go into huge details (its not a prepper dump), but I think the book does address the collective action versus isolated individual effort, that you have discussed a number of times, pretty well.