Title: This Is How It Ends
Author: Nick Wilgus
Publisher: DSP Publications
Length: 276 Pages
Category: Horror, Sci-Fi
At a Glance: Apocalypse Now-ish–two teens are stuck on a dying world between aliens and the undead. It doesn’t look good for them.
Reviewed By: Ben
Blurb: High school juniors Billy Gunn and Rory Wilder return from a weekend camping trip to find a mysterious plague has wiped out their small town of Port Moss, Mississippi. The question of why is only the beginning—especially when the dead refuse to stay dead.
Figuring out what happened is job one for Billy and Rory. But complications quickly set in. Not only do the dead rise, but a freak storm threatens torrential downpours as winter looms. And enormous ships appear in the sky, bringing with them alien visitors with technology never seen before.
Left without electricity and modern conveniences, Billy and Rory must figure out a way to navigate horrific zombies, advanced alien life forms, and apocalyptic storms, as well as deal with their growing love for each other in a world gone mad.
Review: I loved this book. The action was spot-on, the characters were unique and interesting, and the setting was oh-my-god terrifying. It was very well put together. I may be biased (I’m definitely biased), but this is the third DSP Publications book in a row I’ve absolutely loved. For those of you who are interested in queer genre fiction that’s off the beaten path, this is definitely the imprint for you. Not all of the stories are romance, and some of them have vague queer plots (but still have queer characters), but I’ve enjoyed the range of queer stories from historical to fantasy to urban paranormal horror. It’s been quite a ride, and it’s just getting better!
The blurb doesn’t allude to this, but Billy and Rory have a dynamic relationship. They are technically friends, but Billy’s known he’s had it bad for Rory for a long time, and unfortunately, because he doesn’t want to ruin their friendship, his love has been unmentioned and unrequited. Until the last day of their camping trip. There’s little time to explore their feelings, when a pair of dead bodies show up, and then they discover everyone in their town is dead… and some of them aren’t staying dead. Rory’s Baptist, and when the dead start rising, he’s convinced that it’s because he and Billy harbor impure thoughts for one another. Because they are teens in this story—too young for consent in the US—all intimate encounters are dealt with off page, but the author does a fantastic job lining everything up so we know what happens and how it affects their characters and relationship.
Though this story is told completely in Billy’s point of view, there was a fascinating evolution with Rory’s character. I loved how the author didn’t shy away from repeating similar dialog chains as Rory dealt with his particular brand of religion and the implications of that on his immortal soul and the state of the world. It was very well done. Sure, you often wanted to smack Rory on the head for his idiocy, but he’s a teenager and a Baptist, so that made loads of sense, really.
I will say the racism in this book took me by surprise. At first I was second-guessing whether or not this was a historical piece, but the kids had Facebook and cell phones, so it’s not. Now, I haven’t been to Mississippi in a long time, but the level of racism and sexism blew my hair back. I’m guessing the author knows what’s what, but honestly even amongst the aliens and zombies and post-apocalyptic environment, these aspects of the book were the most terrifying for me to endure… which, come to think of it, is probably one of the minor themes of this book. Huh.
The characters are incredible, and the plot is terrifyingly awesome. I haven’t skipped small paragraphs of text because I was this scared shitless since Stephen King. Seriously. Things go from bad to worse to oh-my-fucking-gods-really! Even when the knowledge this is the first book in a series, and while trying to avoid significant spoilers, I was fairly certain everyone was going to die at nearly every point in my reading—I mean everyone.
Something that did surprise me, however, was quite a few reviewers thought this novel had a cliffhanger. I mean, sure, technically the audience is left in some sort of suspense because this classifies under the suspense/horror genre, but there’s clearly a complete story, and usually I reserve the cliffhanger status for those stories that aren’t. In any case, this was a book I couldn’t put down. I wished I had called off work so I could have finished it in a day, instead of the two days it took me.
You can buy This Is How It Ends here: