Thomas is thirty-two. He lives in the small town of Barkley.
He has a wife there, Sarah, and a child, Mary; good solid names from the Good Book. And he is on his way home from the war, where he has been serving as a conscripted soldier.
Thomas is also dead- he is one of the Walkin’. And Barkley does not suffer the wicked to live.
We are all familiar with the archetypal Zombie story.
The dead return, they’re a bit bitey, the hordes of zombies grow, they eat, the world is doomed, the survivors discover the ol’ “Shoot them in the head” trick, and then they all go to The Winchester for a nice cold pint, and wait for it all to blow over. Ok, that last bit doesn’t happen so frequently, but you get the idea.
I (for one), absolutely love Zombie stories. From the classic George A. Romero films, to The Walking Dead, The Resident Evil games etc.
So a few months ago when I heard of the upcoming release of David Towsey’s debut novel (and the first of a trilogy), I was rather excited.
First and foremost, Your Brothers Blood is not your average Zombie story. Mr Towsey turns the zombie phenomenon on its undead head!
A hundred or so years into the future, after an unknown apocalyptic situation (known as The Second Fall). Mankind has reverted right back to basics and a more simple way of life, reminiscent of the old American West.
The story is set in the town of Barkley whose founder (J.S Barkley) paved the way for how the townspeople should live “Live a plain life: family, worship, and the soil – repentance for our ancestors.”
Barkley is a harsh place, and Mr Towsey describes it in such a way that you can clearly see the town as a character itself. In my opinion Barkley is the town that refused to die and could almost be identified as one of the undead.
The Zombies (identified in the novel as the Walkin) are identifiable characters, they have no desire for eating brains etc. The people of Barkley fear the Walkin, and this fear is backed up by the teachings of the late J.S Barkley, and Pastor Gray’s piety.
Pastor Gray’s sermons are all hellfire and brimstone, he preaches that the Walkin are damned souls forced to endlessly walk the earth, and that they are their ancestors sins personified. The Good Book is wielded as a weapon in the town of Barkley and is in fact the *only* book available to the town.
With most Zombie stories, the undead are quickly identified as the monsters. Towsey shows very early on in the book that mankind are the monsters and one can’t help but feel sorry for the Walkin and their plight.
Thomas wakes up dead. He is/was a soldier fighting an endless war. He wants to see his family again, but knows if he returns to Barkley, not only will he put himself in danger, but also his beloved daughter Mary. The anguish Thomas feels shows that even though he is now one of the Walkin, he is still very much a man. A man that feels and has memories, and loves even though he is no longer one of the living.
As previously mentioned Towsey avoids the usual horror element found in everyday Zombie tales. The horror comes from the ever looming danger that the Walkin face, and the blind conviction by the townsfolk to punish the unholy that plague their simple way of life.
From start to finish, I absolutely adored this novel. It had such a haunting and beautiful feel to it. The father and daughter relationship between Thomas and Mary was so touching and beautiful, and showed that even through something as terrible as Thomas went through, the bonds of fatherly love can never be bent or broken, and if anything, are a lot stronger.
The town of Barkley, Pastor Gray and Luke Morris the acolyte, reminded me of Silent Hill (the movie) in the way that they were so blinded by their faith and intolerance of the Walkin, it had started to unravel their own humanity.
Your Brothers Blood is part of a trilogy and Towsey has left a lot of pathways open for exploration in the future novels.
I look forward to finding out more about the Walkin and discovering more about the world that Towsey has built. Your Brothers Blood is one of my favourite reads of 2013
Welcome to Barkley!
Your Brothers Blood is out now! from Jo Fletcher Books
(Thanks to Jo Fletcher Books for providing me with a copy of this wonderful novel)