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3.9 out of 5 stars
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on 10 April 2014
As "I Spied a Pale Horse" begins, an apocalyptic event has already occured and we are introduced to protaganist John and his battle for survival in the aftermath. And battle it is, for this is quite an action orientated story. Flashbacks throughout the novel fill in the details of John's life before, during and after the disaster, which was a "Black Death" plague that killed almost everyone. Like the plague in The Stand, a handful of people are immune to the virus. However, this is where any similarities between the two books end as King's masterpiece is in a completely different league.

I Spied a Pale Horse is a fairly short book and certainly a quick read. The fast pace leaves little time for characterisation and no time to get bored. It does a reasonable job of showing how having to survive in such a world could change a person. I've read a number of PA novels and this one is neither the best or worst. It's entertaining enough and written in an easy to read style. Most fans of the PA genre would find it worth reading, particularly those who feel that actions speak louder than words.
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on 10 December 2009
This book recalls the "After The Fire" trilogy which I've also reviewed, but considerably grimmer, belonging to the distinctly less optimistic brand of "post-disaster" story, the kind I tend to associate with John Christopher, as opposed to the more "cosy disasters" of someone like John Wyndham.

Timlin's book is set in southern England, in the immediate aftermath of the Plague, when everyone is still in the "scavenging" stage, living off the leftovers from the Old Times. So it's still motor transport rather than horse drawn, and guns rather than catapults or bows and arrows. There hasn't been a lot of work on setting up a self-sustaining society, and indeed serious questions are raised about its possibility. Will those who try be simply setting themselves up as natural victims, to be immediately plundered or worse by those who find robbery easier than hard work?

Timlin is imprecise about the cause of the disaster, but describes the Last Days in more detail than many such stories, eg Earth Abides. They are largely recalled in flashbacks, through the eyes of the central character, a policeman who sees his wife and daughters die.

Timlin has the interesting idea, which I don't recall having seen before, of communities setting up at traffic bottlenecks, such as the Dartford Tunnel, and then charging exorbitant tolls on passers-by. This put me in mind of a comment by Princess Di on receiving the freedom of London. Noting that one of the privileges attaching to this was the right to herd her sheep over Hammersmith Bridge, she pledged herself to contact the Metropolitan Police before doing so. It drew a laugh, but the absence of that right could have been a serious, perhaps crippling, handicap to a medieval sheep farmer, and those days could come again.

An even nastier idea is the change in concepts of money and property. The idea of petrol as a medium of exchange is an old one, certainly for Survivors watchers, but far more unpleasant is the idea that people themselves might be a valuable commodity. The nearest Survivors ever came to that was when the London Group tried to abduct Ruth for the sake of her value as a doctor, but both Crossley and Tilman introduce the grimmer idea that women (and maybe young boys) could be in demand for purposes far removed from the medical. Ruth's unwillingness to get pregnant might be far less tolerated some places than it was in civilised White Cross.

One rather wicked thought. I fear men of this turn of mind could equip themselves quite well at Ann Summers shops or "adult" bookstores. I gather that handcuffs and leg shackles - not to mention whips and canes - are a normal part of the stock in trade at such places. An ideal mart for a wannabe slaveowner.

As with many such books, this one is a shade to far to the "blood and guts" end of the spectrum for my taste, hence only four stars, but still well worth a read. However, if you like happy endings you may prefer to give it a miss. Use your own judgment.
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on 1 October 2011
Like one of the other reviewers, I have read a lot of apocalyptic fiction and hadn't heard of this book, but came across it by accident. I'm really glad I did as it's on of the best I've read. The story is a first person account of surviving in the UK following a pandemic that kills the vast majority of the population. There's not much that's particularly new in that, but the descriptions of the world he lives in and the people and situations he encounters are very well described. I also found that I cared who lived and died, which isn't always the case with these stories.

The interesting part of the story, in my opinion, is that we gradually find out about the 'hero' and the plague mainly in flashback. He was generally a decent person before the disease spreads but relatively quickly becomes a cold blooded killer. This change in the characters' attitudes and the grim setting reminded me of 'The Death of Grass' by John Christopher (which is a huge compliment, and without plagiarising it).

This change in outlook of the characters is my one criticism of the book - everyone seems very willing to kill everyone else, even when it's not really necessary. There is at least one group of people who are more-or-less peaceful but they don't fare very well, which seems to tell the reader that it's better to shoot first and be reasonable later. For the UK, there seems to be no shortage of firearms and ammunition. I could believe there being a few shotguns found in farms etc, but nearly everyone seems to have semi-automatic weapons. Aside from that, this is definitely recommended for fans of disaster and end-of-the-world type books.
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on 19 November 2012
I enjoyed this book. there was a time when I read every 'sharman' book as it came along . Eventually I got a bit fed up wth the continual violence and slight repitition of plots. I enjoy post apoplyctic function as much as the next nut and I thought this was good as the genre goes.The plot line : Ex london Policeman watches his family die from mysterious disease with accompanying breakdown in society. He comes across a pregnant young woman and takes her under his wing. All through the book there is death mayhem and slaughter all things Mark Timlin does very well. This book is not 'lord of the flies' or ' The road'. It is however a very good adrenalin fueled ride through an England in chaos . It feels like the start of a series but to judge from the publication date the seies did not take off , shame. I might have to go back to Nick Sharman for my drug and alcohol fueled gun craziness.
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I read a lot of Apocalyptic/Post Apocalypse books but for some reason this one has been flying below my radar and it was only by accident I found it. How have I missed this one for so long?! I'm so glad I chanced upon it because it's brilliant! I don't know why this doesn't have a bigger following and isn't better known and fans of this genre are missing out if they haven't read this because it's one of the better ones I've read lately.

One of the reasons I really got into it is because it's set in the UK, which is a nice change from the usual American setting. It makes for a more realistic read if I have half an idea of the places and practices that are written about. I think that the 'realism' is what really makes this book though, there's no supernatural reasoning for the end of the world, there's nobody with special powers or abilities, there are no mutations or freaks of nature...it's just a group of people trying to survive an event of apocalyptic proportions. It's great.

I loved the main character and his companions too. I hated the people they hated, I really liked the people they liked, I was scared for them when they were in danger and I was sad alongside them too. I'm amazed that such a small book could have packed so much into it. I was really sad when I reached the end. Although, the end makes me want to believe that somewhere in the future there will be another book to follow. I think it ends here though and I'll have to imagine what the future holds for the lead character, but I can hope....

I wish there were more books like this one. Good, old fashioned, last man standing type stories with no monsters or otherworldly beings or souped up mental powers. Just a person/people with just the clothes they stand up in, trying to rebuild a semblance of a life with what is left over from their old world. I love all that.

I definitely would recommend this! It's worth noting that while it's not littered with four letter words, there are a few choice one's used but if you're an adult it won't be any you've not heard before......Personally, I think that given the circumstances in the book, I'm surprised there's not more swearing, if I'm honest :D
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on 19 September 2009
A great post-apocalyptic novel, full of detail about how life changes from the day of the flu like pandemic, through to the end of the first year. Contains all the elements of say 'Survivors', right down to the petty little Hitler types and our hardened, grisled, opportunistic protagonist.
Instead of the usual 'how can we get the old world working again' view, this gritty story sees how things fare for a more opportunistic, anti-hero type. Could be seen like Andy mcNab meets Terry Nation perhaps.
This novel is however very graphic and gruesome and definately pulls no punches in terms of both the moral fibre of the hero, and the descriptive nature of the text.
A gritty, gripping and highly entertaining read.
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on 22 April 2004
Being a big fan of the sharman books too, I was chuffed to get hold of acopy of this. I was even more chuffed when I read it. There's always aplace for the anti-hero as far as I'm concerned - either against apre-apocalyptic background of moral decay (Stark's Parker, Timlin'sSharman) or in this case the mad max style hero of the postapocalypse.
The description of the dead and dying littering the streets of London wasstomach churningly brilliant. For me, it evoked those serious takes on theapocalypse from my youth such as 'survivors' and 'threads' but as a pieceof writing it had all the panache of a big screen action movie.
Wonderful stuff. Makes me want to see what a Timlin zombie novel wouldlook like!
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on 18 March 2011
I bought this book expecting to be disappointed and boy was I right.

Are you the kind of reader who cares for such literary functions as plot and characterisation? If so, then steer clear of this mess.

If however, you're more into reading long lists, and I mean loooooong lists, of exactly what kind of firearms the protagonist carries, down to the model numbers and what sort of bullets they're loaded with, then by all means read away.

Was it written by a gun nut? Very probably.

Was it written by someone with an ear for a good story? Hell no!

1 star really is too many stars entirely.
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on 5 October 1999
As a big Sharman fan, and having read all but one of his books (has anyone got Falls the Shadow-email leebuchanan@hotmail.com), I was keen to get hold of this book. Written in a different style from the Sharmen novels, it was nonetheless as gripping and hard hitting.
Well worth reading.
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on 10 February 2014
Sort of a Home Counties Mad Max crammed full of far fetched suburban uber violence. However, its nice to see some UK set PA books around!
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