There are many things that annoy me as a reader. Authors who insert horrific scenes about the abuse of children or animals as a quick way to move the plot forward is one of them. Nick Cole, however is not one of those authors, and his latest contribution to the Apocalypse Weird universe is proof of that.
AW: The Dark Night is Cole’s second solo AW book, which immediately follows the action in AW: The Red King. In AW: TRK we read about the fall of civilization in southern California. About Holiday, a depressed drunk with repressed memories of boot camp; about Ash, a Spetznaz trained M.D. with a heart of gold; about Frank, an older guy with a taste for fine Italian cuisine and disturbing marksmanship skills; Ritter, a skinny white guy who badly wants to be a gangsta; and Braddock, a special forces soldier with orders to revenge the U.S. government against its enemies, “whatever it takes.” Over the course of the book, these folks learn to deal with the appearance of zombies, the breakdown of civilization, and the secrets that they dole out with eyedroppers to each other.
In this follow-up novel, we see that Frank, Ash, Ritter and a few others have built themselves a fortress out of the remains of their suburban housing complex, no thanks to Holiday who nearly got them all overrun in the previous book. In a self-conscious attempt to get back into Frank and Ash’s good graces, Holiday comes upon the idea of surrounding the complex with shipping containers. It works well enough to impress the others but Frank and Ash are not so easily placated.
Into this environment comes Cory, a special needs teen who has lost the only world he’s known and is not well adapted to the one he finds himself in. He has one survival technique which is adapted for the new world: he puts on a cape and gloves and mask and becomes Batman. Batman can go out at night. Batman can defend himself against the undead hordes (“stranger danger” in Cory-speak) and Batman is never scared, even as Cory is quaking in his shoes.
Batman gets Cory through the ruined landscape one step at a time: from the house where he hides with the sitter to the local pharmacy, to escaping with Heather the stock girl, to accidentally plunging into a horrific blasted wasteland populated by killer robots and malevolent computers, to his own shattered world of zombies, to the suburban castle where he finally finds refuge.
Frankly, the only way you can not be sick with worry over Cory’s plight is if you either A) have no heart, or B) have been dead for six weeks. And this gets to what I wrote about earlier: there is no sign of cheap emotional manipulation by Cole at any point in the narrative. He writes succinctly, getting deep into Cory’s head, letting us experience where the boy is coming from on every step of his adventure and it never feels overdone or sentimental. It is merely authentic story telling.
Just about the only thing I didn’t like about this book was that it was over way too soon. But that’s fine, because Wonderment Media has a lot more material in the pipe and it’s a very big world.