Wednesday, 9 March 2016

The Vagrant by Peter Newman - A Review

They travel across a post apocalyptic wasteland, A man, a baby and a goat. He may be the world's last hope as he is carrying a weapon that may well be all that stands between humanity and demonic infestation.

First things first - The Vagrant himself. Here is a man who feels like a walking threat. The Vagrant (yes, that is his name) has to carry the whole story as he is the main lead but....he is unable to speak. He utters not one word and really that should be a stumbling block. How can someone on whom the story hangs get away with not speaking? The answer, as it turns out, is perfectly well. The author writes his character so well he can convey all he needs to say with a gesture, a facial expression. The Vagrant comes across as a determined and violent man but not an evil violent man. If he hurts you or kills you it is because that is something that needs to be done.

Under his cloak (as well as his sentient sword, Malice) is a small baby whom The Vagrant is looking after. This man will murder, maim, destroy enemies and then stop to feed or change the baby. It isn't something that should necessarily work but again, it does. The final member of our heroic trio is a goat...yes, you heard me correctly, A GOAT!! To say the goat is mainly there for comic chuckles may be stating the obvious but it's a fact and, again, it works well. There is a scene early on in the story where The Vagrant is getting treated for an injury and all through the process the goat just stands there watching and eating a glove it has found. This juxtaposition between the two characters, one a pent up barrel of rage and violence and one a goat who, basically, doesn't seem to give a toss about anything except eating makes for an intriguing time.

The land itself is bleak in the extreme. It is a post apocalyptic wasteland and actually feels oppressive. I guess the impression it gave to me was a cross between Mad Max and Judge Dredd's Cursed Earth. It is broken, every footstep is a risk and may be your last. The 'Big Bad's' of this tale are hideous demonic grotesques, demon's from your worst nightmares - one could almost compare his creations with those of Clive Barker.......almost.

Finally, the actual writing. Is this really Peter Newman's debut novel? (You will probably ask yourself this several times). It is, and a very fine job he makes of it too. The story is told in more or less the present tense (there's probably a fancy term for it but I don't it) and the prose is often very sparing. You know what you need to know and that's often all you know. To put this book in a genre bracket is difficult as it has aspects of fantasy, horror and sci-fi but it would sit well in any.

I'd call it a promising debut but exceptional would probably be a better description. If Mr Newman keeps up this level of quality then we are witnessing the arrival of a big player on the scene

9/10 stars

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