Just when you think you might be jaded reading a particular genre, along comes a great book that blows you away. The latest example for me being CARRIER WAVE by Robert Brockway. It’s goddam extraordinary.
The novel is about a frequency that once heard infects you with an alien intelligence, an intelligence that wants to consume humanity. It turns you into a machine of destruction, one that can take one of several horrible forms. Once it appears, so does the black spot in the sky, a spot that grows larger with each passing day. This is the story of humanity’s destruction, desperate struggle for survival, and possible salvation. Picture THE SIGNAL (2007) or Stephen King’s CELL meets Lovecraft, and you’re in the ballpark.
It’s not so much a novel as a collection of short stories, each story having its own protagonist and dealing with a different aspect or phase of the apocalypse. This was hard for me to get used to, since as soon as I truly invested in a character, that particular story was over and it was on to the next one. The convention took some getting used to. By the end, all the surviving characters end up in the same place in the same storyline, though by then I’d forgotten some of their names. Some of the writing is indie rough, with favorite phrases like, “he fell like a puppet with its strings cut.”
But that’s pretty much my only criticism. Otherwise, I found the novel roaring fun, if you consider watching humanity flounder in its own blood to be fun, as, uh, I do. Brockway’s characters are ordinary people facing an impossible horror, and they’re all quickly likeable and people you can root for to survive. Their battles to survive are dramatic and rarely predictable. The horror element never grows stale but remains interesting and occasionally surprising to the end, particularly as the black spot and the things that inhabit it are revealed.
In the end, CARRIER WAVE accomplishes something difficult to do–carve out its own identity and stand out in a very popular and therefore packed sub-genre. It has great ideas and a terrific premise, loads of violent fun, touches of comedy, plenty of humanity, and just enough hope. I’m happy to recommend this one to apoc fiction fans.