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Severed by Gary Fry

When an unknown virus is unleashed on London, it turns everyone in its path into violent, zombie-like killing machines, leaving their souls separated and floating away to form a giant halo above the capital. Flesh and spirit, dead and alive, they are both. They are severed.

As a beleaguered government brings in scientists to work on an antidote, the problems become even more complex. The virus spreads. The mayhem grows. There’s no solution in sight and time is running out.

Enter Stephen Hobbs, a hard-drinking, womanizing academic with a violent past of his own. Due to his special skill set and experience, he is enlisted to figure out what the virus is and how to stop it. Despite his own demons, Hobbs may very well be humanity’s last chance to survive becoming…SEVERED.

Apocalyptic fiction can be a pretty divisive sub-genre. There are those that just can’t get enough of this kind of fiction while there are others who loathe it with a passion. I’m pleased to say I fall squarely into the first category. I could happily read apocalyptic fiction all day every day. Every book that appears on my personal top five fits into this category in some form or another. With that in mind, I looked forward to this latest offering from Gary Fry and Dark Fuse.

The first thing that struck me about this book was how much I liked the premise. The idea that humans can be split between their animalistic base drives and their more introspective selves. The consequences of this split mange to be both brutally violent and thoughtful in a single breath.

Stephen Hobbs is an intriguing choice for a lead character, certainly not what you would expect from your usual protagonist. He’s a highly intelligent, sometimes contemplative sort with keen insight into the human condition. Sadly this doesn’t stop him from also being a spectacular train wreck of a human being in his personal life. Often driven by his own huge ego, as well as copious amounts of alcohol and cigarettes, he regularly lets the baser side to his nature run the show. If we’re being a hundred percent honest, then frankly he’s a bit of an arse. If you met him in a pub there’s a good chance he’d be the loudmouth that you’d want to slap after about five minutes. I didn’t particularly like him but that didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the story in the slightest, quite the reverse in fact. Hobbs journey to save humanity mirrors his journey to save himself. Part of me still strongly suspects even now that not liking him, at least initially, is kind of the point.

As I mentioned earlier there are some pretty cool ideas floating around in the plot of Severed. Once the virus is unleashed on the streets of London, things start to collapse swiftly. Fry’s take on the apocalypse has a decidedly metaphysical air. Don’t get me wrong though, there’s still plenty for your average gore-hound to appreciate. The creatures that are left behind when their souls have departed are extremely dangerous. They are prisoners to their own base instincts and are driven to act upon them. All that drives them forward is the compulsion to act. Gender, race, religion, sexuality and age all become irrelevant as these sub-human creatures can only focus on violence, gluttony and carnal desire.

The response from the British government to the outbreak plays out in the harsh glare of the world’s media. You get a distinct feeling that any response they make is being made based on how they fair in the latest news reports. On top of that, the man in control of the military has what can best be described as “issues” with how to best deal with the problem of the severed. These extra little insights go some way to help making things feel more believable and realistic.

Overall I enjoyed Severed, I do think however that perhaps it would benefited from being slightly longer. The various plot strands all manage to come together, but things just feel a bit too neat for my taste. There is definitely an apocalyptic air to proceedings but making the stage just a bit bigger, a bit grander, would have pushed this from the realms of good to great. I’ll be looking out for Gary Fry’s next work with interest.

Severed is published by Dark Fuse and is available now.

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