Underground Reading: A Man of Affairs by John D. MacDonald
The Boys - We Gotta Go Now...

Underground Reading: The Culled by Simon Spurrier

CulledIn The Culled, the first of the Afterblight Chronicles, Simon Spurrier introduces a post-apocalyptic world that's vicious, deranged, horrific and a whole lot of fun. Spurrier channels the golden age of splatterpunk in describing a disease-ravaged land populated by cannibals, cultists and drug-hazed maniacs. 

The main character is an ex-SAS assassin type - exactly the sort of bullet-chewing hard man/action hero that the book needs. There's not a lot of subtlety going on - but that's not what the book requires. Spurrier takes the reader on a trans-Atlantic, flashback-littered journey through the world of the Afterblight, keen to show off as much as possible before the ink runs out. 

As a result, the plot (such as it is) takes a bit of a backseat. There are clearly defined good guys and bad guys (whew), so the reader doesn't really need to know why anything is happening as much as sit back and enjoy the show. And, again, it is a pretty spectacular show. Explosions, lunatics, super-violence, more explosions, car chases, man-hunts, gladiators, cannibals... anything that can blow up and/or lose a head appears during the course of the book. The result is surprisingly creative (and a very good time). 

My one objection is the vague implication of the plague's supernatural origins. Mr. Spurrier carefully mocks the rise of the cult-like religion and tears apart its mystical claims with glee. However, one of the sidekicks (a minor protagonist in his own right) is a Native American survivor of the Cull - chosen to go on a spiritual dream-quest by his tribal elders. He's plagued by meaningful omens (some of which derive from his use of ultra-powerful drugs) and curious portents. It is a little over-the-top, and comes close to ruining an otherwise 'science fiction' thriller. There's also the random design decision that allowed entire chapters to be written in italicized text. This was a (literal) headache. 

Overall, a fun, filthy (in a good way) book. The Afterblight is shaping up to be a great shared world from a publisher that's not afraid to take risks to get your attention.

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