Day by Day Armageddon: Beyond Exile
J. L. Bourne
Gallery Books/Permuted Press
Trade Paper, 288 pages, $15.00
Review by Sheila Merritt
Military speculative fiction, with zombies; just another jump on the zombie bandwagon? Not in the hands of J. L. Bourne. In Day by Day Armageddon: Beyond Exile, the author adroitly applies elements of the subgenres in a compelling first person narrative. The epistolary genre novel found its initial great success in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Bourne uses the diary/letters concept as the means of telling his tale. His protagonist is bone weary, wise, witty, and woeful. Each day is another struggle with the undead; each night is filled with fears. Old soldier survival techniques are sometimes applicable, but often not. The world has gone mad; adaptation is the key to dealing with it.
Describing this insane shift is Bourne’s strong suit. He achieves it with crackling, insightful monologues/dialogues. Employing perspective is another way by which he delineates the then from the now: “In the old world, there were only a handful of animals that could deliver a fatal bite, such as some breeds of snake. Now the pendulum of deadly creatures to vulnerable humans has swung toward cataclysm. At least with a deadly viper, one might have a possibility of survival.”
The story has detailed discourses on weaponry that will tantalize the testosterone oriented reader. Yet, those who are more inclined to sentiment won’t feel deprived. The author gets inside the head and heart of his main character; who is touching in passages such as this: “I kept making my way south and west, passing scene after scene of decay. How long had it been since I had seen the first of them? I walked and imagined how it would feel to talk to someone again. The feeling of loneliness was setting in. From all my experiences with survival, this was the most serious of all emotions. It is different with everyone, but for me, the emotion attached to being lonely is fear.”
Beyond Exile is the second book in the Day by Day Armageddon series. Book three promises explanations for the cause of the tumult and terror. J. L. Bourne takes a war time sensibility akin to the Academy Award winning film The Hurt Locker, and successfully integrates it into a dynamic like the Mad Max movies; never once forgetting a prime principle of story engagement: Make the main character emotionally comprehensible and accessible.