Russell Day- King Of The Crows @FahrenheitPress

Oceans Eleven Meets 28 Days Later- 2028, eight years after a pandemic swept across Europe, the virus has been defeated and normal life has resumed. Memories of The Lockdown have already become clouded by myths, rumour and conspiracy. Books have been written, movies have been released and the names Robertson, Miller & Maccallan have slipped into legend. Together they hauled The Crows, a ragged group of virus survivors, across the ruins of London. Kept them alive, kept them safe, kept them moving. But not all myths are true and not all heroes are heroes. Questions are starting to be asked about what really happened during those days when society crumbled and the capital city became a killing ground. Finally the truth will be revealed…

WHERE DO I BEGIN?

TO TELL THE STORY OF HOW GREAT ZOMBIES CAN BE…

Ha! Enough of the dodgy 70s music reference and strap yourselves in folks for one helluva read. When Fahrenheit Press started giving loaded signals about them having got their mitts on a zombie heist thriller, my interest was piqued. Reading this book in the grip of a global pandemic ourselves, is an individual decision for the reader, but I guarantee that if you do take the plunge you will be blown away by the prescience, cleverness and kaleidoscopic reach of this novel, conceived and written a long while before these dark and mystifying days…

In a good way, King Of The Crows is a nightmare to review, simply because it is one of the most multi-faceted, meaty books I have read. Kind of with the ergodic pull of Mark Danielewski’s House of Leaves with less footnotes, but with the scope and energy of a rip roaring thriller like Terry Hayes I Am Pilgrim and the visual impact on the reader of the best of the zombie cinema. Charting the course of a devastating HV-Tg pandemic that renders a majority of the infected into a zombie-like state dubbed as Gonzos, through shifting timelines and alternative forms of narrative, this is both a highly original and beautifully textured read.

The narrative and remembrance of events past and present is not only structured as a traditional thriller, but also cleverly injects different mediums: film script, dictionary, street art, memoir, chat room conversations, media reports and so on. Not only does Russell Day keep a conscious awareness that we know exactly where we are in terms of past and present, but also uses these forms to root us in the period and elucidate us further to events within these particular timelines. Being a bit of an arty farty bookworm myself, I was particularly fascinated by the changes and development in language that occur during, and in the wake of the pandemic as new signifiers come into being to deal with the strangeness of events. I also appreciated the cheeky nods and winks that Day inserts about the political state of America, a little homage to Kurtz of Joseph Conrad’s Heart Of Darkness, and other potential spoilers I could mention, that will make you raise a knowing eyebrow. It’s very clever but not in that look at me and how clever I am kind of way. It’s most definitely that hot damn this is clever and a feast for my brain kind of way…

I think the wee synopsis gives you an overview of what this book is about, and I am really really reluctant to go into much further detail on that score as I was entrusted to read this book literally knowing just what the blurb said. I would love you to experience this book with the same wide-eyed enchantment. All I will say is that the book pivots between the events of the pandemic of 2020, and people traversing dangerous and threatening situations both in London and France. This is interspersed with the present day, in this case 2028, with the myths and the contrasting accounts that have grown up around the Crows- a band of raggle-taggle survivors and the dominant figures within this group. One of these, Colin Robertson, finds him at the centre of a police investigation involving murder and robbery, conducted by a mentally scarred male officer, Winslow, and Cross, a female American detective allayed to the Washington Police Department, who underwent her own baptism of fire during the pandemic. As their questioning of Robertson unfolds, we begin to have a kaleidoscopic view of past events through Robertson’s not always truthful testimony, other’s perceptions of him and the hero status ascribed to him though cultural forms, the linear narrative of the characters and life within the Crows, and what Winslow and Cross discover in the course of their investigation. Day pits unreliable narration against investigative truth, against media double speak extremely effectively, leaving the reader to unpick and re-stitch what we think we know, until we are cajoled into thinking that we have worked it all out. Rest assured you won’t, as the insanely clever yet wholly believable ending of the book more than demonstrates.

Additionally, the characterisation is superb and within the construct of each individual, Day is given a tremendous amount of scope to meld a psychological commentary within the book too. As we observe the activities of individuals in the Lockdown of the pandemic and how they adjust, survive or fall victim to the new dangerous climate and some of its attendant mumbo-jumbo too, each character brings something vivid and important to the book. It’s clever how Day uses most of his characters to represent the differing reactions and instincts that people would experience in this situation- the survivor, the schemer, the weak, the strong- and so on, and how we then perceive some of them on the other side of the pandemic too. No spoilers!

Throughout the book the reader is kept well and truly on their toes, being assailed by shifting timelines, shifting narrative forms and shifting zombies too. I can truly say that King Of The Crows is like nothing I have read before, and I was blown away by the scope and visuality that Day has achieved with this book. I loved the story, the characters, the crows both feathered and otherwise, the structure, the science and you can’t go wrong with a good old zombie heist combo, in my humble opinion. Mind officially blown. Make sure yours is too.

Highly hot-damningly recommended.

Buy your copy of King Of The Crows (digital format, paperback or incredibly cool limited edition hardback) direct from Fahrenheit Press HERE When buying a physical format of any of Fahrenheit’s books you also get the digital copy free. 

 

Read an interview with Russell Day about the conception of King Of The Crows at Writers Online here

Check out King Of The Crows HQ  here

If you’re still not sure how great this book is check out these reviews too…

Barking Mad Blog Spot

And this one from Grab This Book

King of the Crows – Russell Day

With much thanks to Fahrenheit Press for the ARC

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3 comments

  1. I’m not normally a zombie fan, but I couldn’t resist the description of this book and had to get it. I look forward to reading it, especially now that you’ve given the seal of approval as well!

  2. BAM. That’s how someone’s supposed to write about this! You did a great job tap dancing around all the stuff you should not ruin for the reader while taking a good look at it all–great write-up about a great book!

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