Now that was WYRD.
The first thing that came to mind when starting to read The Red King was that it has a The Stand feeling. While I´m not quite certain of the purpose of the opening prologue, I have a feeling we´ll see more of The Raggedy Man quite soon. Now if this isn´t a major player in the weirdest apocalypse imagineable I don´t know who will be. For now this part of the story seems slightly out of place, disconnected from the ongoing forces that is The Red King.
I am not sure how to classify The Red King. There are so many different subplots which are hinted at, or make a brief appearance, that I find it at this point impossible to know where everything´s heading. A mysterious fog, The Raggedy Man, aliens or whatever that was exactly, zombies - a lot of them -, a dangerous man who might be more than just that, a Nazi part with what I think could be Ash at another time (time travel is real, folks!), and and and... The Red King is so much more than just a book. Something where the sum is bigger than it´s single units.
The whole Apocalypse Weird world is more than simply a book, in this case The Red King. It is an interconneted web of different story arcs, websites and of course writers who take the world as we know it, and destroy it with much pleasure.
The zombie survival story itself makes some partially gory reading and there were certainly times I wanted to puke my guts out. For dealing with zombies that was to be expected, even Nick Cole doesn´t make it more bloodysome than really necessary. So no overly explicit or even violent scenes even of course that parts that deal with violence are no fun ride.
The different plot lines are done extremely smart, and especially the HOW it is done makes it so fascinating. I was torn between laughing and crying for Holiday, how he stumbles throughout his drunken days while outside the world is coming to an end. This is done so very smart and smooth, I have nothing but admiration for it. It´s the most fun to look at the little details and hints to piece together a bigger picture while Holiday is clueless of what´s going on, even of course he comes slowly to an understanding of the things happening. Everything´s very meticulously crafted, and falls into place as if it couldn´t be any other way.
Frank is the practical guy, the one with the ideas and expertise to build a sort of castle at the surrouding townhomes. The non-nonsense guy who goes to work and does what needs to be done to create some sort of safe space for them while the world is falling to pieces. Zombies and ever increasing fires all around them are what they have to deal with for the moment.
I could somehow more relate to Holiday. He is a lovely guy, dumped by his girlfriend, love sick, a barista at night, and a drunk by day. Holiday is probably the most developed characters of all. His inner thought process are laid out the most so I can actually feel what Holiday feels, or see what he sees with his own eyes.
Ash, the only woman here in this merry band of survivors is a bit of mystery. She is a badass for sure, tough but without letting everyone know her history. She might have the darkest story of them, though, but we will have to see, I guess.
There are some creepy scenes when Holiday and Ash are looking for wires, cement and everything they could use to build their castle to protect themselves. Possible alien invasion included. As if zombies aren´t enough, and those might not even be the biggest of their problems. The irony of it is not lost on me.
The tenderness between those three people thrown together due the circumstances are lovely. How they learn to work with eachother and how they interact is marvelous. There is so much trust between them, and a carefulness that made me smile. They might not really know eachother, but they have eachother´s back.
My biggest complaint in Part One of The Red King is the extreme unsuspecting change of narration in the middle of the book. Where it changes from Holiday and his new friends to Jack Braddock, a military guy who operates for what is left of the government. The state itself might not exist anymore, but at least there are some agencies, and military still in place who try to rescue those who survived the apocalypse.
Right now I´m not quite sure which part of the story arc I liked more. Holiday, Ash and Frank or those of Jack Braddock. Different as those parts are, they both were a pleasure to read.
Jack .. I rooted for the guy even the whole military spec-op style isn´t something I´m normally interested in, but Nick Cole made it certainly an exciting read. Mr Steele, the "most dangerous man in the world" seems to be some kind of shadowy illuminati, some kind of X-Files alike Deep Throat guy even with more nefarious plans anyone can imagine. The mystery of who he really is still needs to be resolved, though. It reads very much thriller-esque, fast paced and I almost expected the nukes coming down hard on them in a matter of seconds.
There is also a certain lyricism especially at the end of the book, with wonderful passages like this one:
"All around them, LA seemed like a dead thing, bleached and bloating. The sun beat down on the washed-out city below as yellow and gray haze hung just above the streets. Distant lone columns of black smoke rose throughout the undisturbed, still air. Braddock could see mobs of Infected down below in the city moving like ants, closing in on some unseen prize. Moving like locusts, in waves the seemed to draw the eye and blacken out the details of a city once full of life. "
So... at the end of Part One is another link to download Part Two /which I have not read yet/, and as I understand it there is even a Part Three of The Red King (again accessible via a link from Part Two). Now this could be an extreme smart move to connect the reader as a part of the worlds known as Apocalpyse Weird, or a cheap gimmick. So far I bet dollars to donuts to be the first. I feel more than only a reader, and this is exactly what makes it right now so exciting and interesting for me.
With that said, I´m off to read more about the weirdest apopcalypse I´ve ever experienced, and in many ways I´m sure it won´t be the last. The world as we know it may have ended, but as it is, we are not done yet. How everything will play out I don´t know. I have some ideas, but I´m most likely wrong about them since there are so many turns and twists I found a bit of a challenge to keep up with everything. Which is definitely not a complaint on my part, just shows how clever the stories within The Red King are.
And there are Easter Eggs hidden within the books, links to websites which lead you into some crazy stuff you cannot make unseen. Dark Net! Dark Net! I can only recommend not to skip clicking on those links, it is worthwhile to check them out.
At the end of the book I had a warm, fuzzy feeling in my stomach while slightly feeling creeped out.