Nope, we are definitely not in Kansas anymore.
Legal disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of ´Texocalypse Now´ by one of the authors, Michael Bunker.
The most amazing thing is that Texocalypse Now was actually written by two people. At the beginning I sort of "knew" which parts where written by whom. Each one of the authors, Nick Cole and Michael Bunker respectively, surely have their own disctinct voice, ways of story telling and actual stories to tell. Until the lines became blurred and I wasn´t so sure anymore about my half-guesses. I was engaged in the different stories, and as expected, different as those stories are, they run smoothly into eachother. They melt into one and the stories became one big overall story. There isn´t a single weak line anywhere to be found.
Also the wonderful cover gives already some clues to the world that is Texocalypse Now. MS Corley has created some beautiful book covers for Apocalypse Weird, which are more than for catching someone´s eye. They act more like mirrors into the soul of those books, so it definitely pays off to pay some close attention of what´s going on there.
The scenes in Texocalypse Now are - without exception - visceral, lucid like a nightmarish dream of a world that is more than "only" apocalyptic. It´s horror escalating into a newfound delight of terror, the bleakest of the bleakest world imaginable. Be it by a band of marauding biker gangs, predators and scavengers, almost-zombies lead by a lunatic, or a reference as a backstory to the VietNam war. And there are tunnels. Many of them. Digging them and living underground plays an important role throughout the book as a way of survival from the worlds surface´s horrors.
Five years ago humankind was struck with an unexpected case of a 24-hours-blindness. The world gone not only blind, but dark with most people dying in the curse of those events. What exactly this rather unusual blindess caused... ? The 88 maybe? Who knows. Demons may have their hands in the matter. Never was a character more properly named then Mayhem. He is the cause for destruction, one of the demoniac 88. Nothing more about them is known so far.
As it should be in a world full of destruction and chaos where there is nothing left but try to live for another day a hommage to Randall Flagg, said Mayhem, seems almost necessary. Mayhem is the thriving force who leads the Hordes, almost zombies, but more like humans deprived of all their humanity. Crazed by a powerpill years ago before the Beginning, that is the actual "end" of the world. Masses and masses of cannibals, always on the lookout for the next proteins (and you may have guessed already what that means).
Ellis and their merry band of young survivors are living their lives as good as they can on a farm in a hidden valley. Kids really, and Ellis at the age of 22 too young to shoulder the responsiblites for their survival as their leader, and sort-of dad. Still they get it going and do what needs to be done, including killing when killing needs to be done as well. I guess that takes living off-grid to a whole different level. There are literally pages and pages going on what it means to live on a farm unexposed, sort of, to the world out there. Knowing Michael Bunker lives off-grid he sure has the knowledge to make those parts actually interesting. I don´t envy those kids in Texocalypse Now, though.
There is so much else going on. Little episodes, periods of someone´s lives, hinted at, blurred together, mixed, and with that said, there is also this almost Bunker-esque quality of cruelty. Killing off his darlings me would think but in a world like this getting attached to someone is almost like a death sentence in itself. No one is safe. However, there is an incredible depth to the characters, so much full of love for them and passion, despite the cruelest of times they have to live through. Everyone is constantly endangered by possible rape and murder by those who "redistribute", meaning taking what someone else has in their possession. Everything is valuable, while the only thing that has no value at all is life itself.
I found the book less weird, but horrifying while I was also extremely fascinated to see how the storylines come together, even for the moment nothing is really made clear.
Texocalypse Now is only one part of a bigger, much bigger story obviously, so there are more questions unanswered then I am really able to ask. Still, I am reasonable sure there will not be alot of books that will kick off Texocalypse Now of my personal list of favorite books this year, early as it is with mid February. Michael Bunker and Nick Cole have set the bar ridiculously high with their writing, but I am fully convinced it can only get better. Texocalypse Now is beautiful in its horror, haunting, and so damn good.
As it is already known in the Apocalypse Weird world there are hidden Easter Eggs in the book. Links to websites with ... stuff. Dark, dark, dark stuff but nice-to-have and not-to-be-missed stuff.
As a sidenote: Dear Dr. Midnite, this is crazy talk!