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A feral frenzy of a story
on 26 April 2012
There are a handful of authors for whom I will drop everything to read their new book when it arrives. Alexander Gordon Smith is one of them. His Escape From Furnace series is not only one of my favourite series of recent years, but also one of my all-time favourite series of YA horror books. In my opinion he leaves most of the competition standing, and yes, I include Shan and Higson there.
What I love most about the Furnace series, and now The Fury can be added to this as well, is the way Gordon (for that is how he prefers to be known) taps into the things that we fear the most. I'm not talking about spiders, rats, death here, but those primal fears that lurk deep with our psyches have done for millennia. Loss of freedom, loss of identity, loss of the things that make us human were all themes covered in the Furnace books, and now in The Fury Gordon goes for the jugular and builds his story around a fear that nearly every child, teenager and adult fears deeply - their friends and family, the people they love the most in the world, turning on them. And we're not just talking playground bullying here, or petty arguments between friends. In The Fury a handful of young people find their loved ones suddenly turning on them, chasing them and literally trying to pull them apart, like a pack of hyaenas slaughtering an isolated baby gazelle.
In The Fury it is as if Alexander Gordon Smith has taken the whole zombie genre, put it in a blender, added his own twisted imagination and incredible talent in equal measures and pressed the on switch. The result is something that is a gore-filled, feral frenzy of a story, with an underlying theme that will have you thinking about it for weeks after the final page has been turned. It is the book that puts Alexander Gordon Smith ahead of the pack in the race for the title of 'the Stephen King of YA horror'.
The blurb at the beginning of this review tells you pretty much all you need to know about the story, although I will clarify one major point. Although similar in nature to the traditional zombie story it differs in one significant way - there is not a zombie in sight, and this is what makes it even more terrifying. Certain individuals suddenly find their nearest and dearest filled with a blood lust and a single-minded desire to pound them into a bloody pulp, even if it means pain and injury to themselves in the process, and yet once the deed is done they immediately return to normal, as if some omnipotent being is turning their 'behave-like-a-zombie switch' on and off for fun. So if you love horror, but are tired with the idea of legions of rotting, stumbling undead munching on brains, then this is the book for you.
This is a 500-page book and yet it reads like something much slimmer in page count. I mean this as the greatest of compliments. There is not a single word of padding in this story, and every word is made to count, and as such there is no scene or passage in the book that ever feels like it is dragging its heels. Instead, I found myself poring through the pages as rapidly as possible, desperately concerned for the fate of the small handful of well-crafted characters that the author collects together. Alexander Gordon Smith is a master story teller and he knows when to speed things up and have the reader's heart pounding hard on their ribcage, and he knows when it is time to give that heart a brief moment of respite before turning the dial back up to 11 and beyond.
The Fury is the first book in a two-part series from Alexander Gordon Smith, and as such does not come anywhere close to having an ending that answers the questions posed during the story. However, it does leave us lusting for more, although at present I am not sure when the sequel is due to be published. If you are at all like me it will also have you thinking about it for weeks after, its themes sneaking back into your conscious thoughts when you least expect it.