|Author: Conrad Williams|
There are certain people who make “things” seem effortless; People who are able to do stuff and make it seem simple. Conrad Williams is one of these marvelous people. It’s a skill I wish I had. Reading this novel made me want to write... to emulate the mighty Conrad. I convinced myself that I could do it. What a great feeling! It only took maybe three or four chapters of One before I’d convinced myself that not only could I write, but that I could be a brilliant writer! Ha ha! Before I knew it I had pulled out a dusty notepad and I was furiously scribbling away a few thoughts on the end of the world. Reading them back... I think I’ll leave the writing to the experts...
One begins in the chaos of an ‘event’. The event in question has all the hallmarks of some sort of nuclear catastrophe. It’s never fully explained and it doesn’t need to be. We join our hero Richard Jane as he battles to survive somewhere off the coast of Aberdeen. He’s a deep sea diver working on the rigs. Forced to surface after a prolonged period beneath the waves, he discovers a world in its death-throes. What on earth is going on!
This is a book of two halves and two styles. The first half reminded me very much of a favourite of mine: Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. It drifted along in a similar way with beautifully evocative prose. I savoured each and every chapter loving the artistry of the writing. Virtually every sentence paints a vivid picture and I found myself dragged along through the decay and ash, not wanting it to end. There are a lot of similar ideas and themes to The Road, but it’s not exactly the same. One focuses on Richard Jane as he comes ashore and then sets off South on a seemingly hopeless quest in search of his young son. Jane has a sneaking suspicion that he may just be the last man on Earth. I chose these last words carefully...
Williams changes tack in the second half of the book. Whilst still deeply entrenched in the grim hopelessness and language used in the first half, the second part reminded me more of Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend (another book that I love). Mixed in is also a little bit of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. There are a lot of things to love here!
I’m not going to spoil the story, but I feel I need to highlight one thing. This book was recommended to me as being a great zombie tale. It is a great tale, but it doesn’t have zombies in it. This is apocalypse with a twist of bitter lemon. It’s not what I was expecting and I’ll wager not what you will be expecting either.
If I had one complaint it might be the ending. Apocalyptic tales are so hard to end right. It’s not bad, but it’s not as good as the rest of the book... which is very good.
On the Triple-B I’m going to spit out 8 teeth and fear the worst. If you love your Apocalyptic novels then you’re going to love this one. Did you see what I did there? Buy, buy, buy!