Monday, 23 November 2009

The Things That Keep Us Here - Carla Buckley


I'm not a huge fan of horror films or novels. On screen, the bad acting and incredible amounts of tomato-ketchup-blood being sloshed about make them more comical than scary. Add in a paranormal element, with blood-sucking alien parasites or gun-toting Martians and it's so unbelievable that it's about as terrifying as a fairy tale ! And in literary form, the plots are often wafer-thin and full of inconsistencies.
Well this book is a horror novel that is so totally believable and realistic and - worst of all - totally plausible that it will chill you to the bone. You read on in horror thinking, this could really happen. Soon. Maybe it is happening right now ! In fact, I'm amazed the authorities haven't censored it to prevent mass panic and hysteria !
So what's it all about ? Who is the evil monster lurking in the shadows ? Well, quite simply, it's the bird flu virus. What can you do when the enemy is unseen and could be on every little thing you touch or even the air that you breathe ? What steps can you take to protect yourself and your loved ones ? How far would you be willing to go to survive ? Add in a huge power cut and a winter storm that stops vital supplies getting through and the scene becomes apocalyptic. And, as the post-Hurricane Katrina looting showed us, in the aftermath of a huge-scale disaster, you can't count on the sense of community and human kindness to help you through, it's each for their own.
Ann Brooks is a very strong leading character - she's one tough lady, but just how much can she take until she finally breaks ? She just gets on with it, doing what she has to do - however heartbreaking the decisions at times - to protect her loved-ones and Mums all over the world will recognise her and empathise with her. The whole novel focuses around this one family unit but we gets sneaky peaks at the bigger scale of things, across town, across the state borders and across the whole world.
It really reminded me of Raymond Brigg's graphic novel in the 1980's, When the Wind Blows. That showed a perfectly ordinary couple trying to get on with their lives in the aftermath of a nuclear attack on Britain and the radiocative pollution and scared me to death when I was a teenager ! The nuclear threat has now taken a backseat and the modern danger is pandemics. Nobody talks much about bird flu these days but just change the animal species to pigs and you have a totally contemporary, chilling tale.
Right from the beginning, I was totally gripped - especially when I read that the author is married to an environmental scientist, so she probably knows exactly what she's talking about. Unfortunately ! Read it if you dare (but probably wait for a while if anyone in your house is currently suffering from swine flu !)
star rating : 5/5
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Orion (18 Feb 2010)
ISBN-10: 1409113078
ISBN-13: 978-1409113072

1 comment:

  1. I still get all excited when authors get back to me about my reviews ! :

    Dear Cheryl,


    How very lovely of you to write and share your feedback about my debut novel. Your very kind and enthusiastic words mean the world to me, and I appreciate your taking to the time to reach out across the pond (as it were)! I wrote THE THINGS THAT KEEP US HERE because I was initially terrified of what would happen if the predictions about H5N1 came true and it developed into a pandemic. I had just moved to Ohio with my family and knew no one, and felt especially vulnerable. Writing the novel helped me face the monsters head on.

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