There’s an awful lot of self-published new fiction out in e-book format out there at the moment, and it can be hard to sieve the gemstones from out of the worthless rocks. One of the better ways for authors to get their wares on display is to offer a free book as a taster and this is what Edward W Robertson does here, with a short but complete novella that acts as a prequel to his Breakers series of full-length novels. It allows readers to get a sense for his writing style and level of talent while also offering a satisfying, complete short story – instead of having to make a call based on the first couple of chapters of a longer work that you can typically receive as a free taster sample.
Breakers is another series of post-apocalyptic tames so beloved of fiction writers and TV series executives at the moment (see also reviews of Terra Nova, Revolution, The Walking Dead, Defiance …) In this case the world has been destroyed by a superflu which is massively contagious and almost invariably fatal; only 1 per cent of the human race survives (making it something of an heir to Terry Nation’s 1970s Survivors TV series concept.)
The 80-page Outcome takes us back to just before the main series starts, and features just two characters one of whom is Ellie Colson, an agent for the Department of Advance Analysis who has been working on modelling the outbreak of the new flu strain and who quickly realises what it means for the world – and that it can’t be stopped. She rushes to New York to save her ex-fiancé Chip as the epidemic takes hold and society starts to disintegrate.
You can’t expect all that much from 80 pages; there’s almost no one else in the story other than Ellie and Chip and the story is laser-focussed on them with the epidemic and its consequences little more than a terrifying backdrop to their Bourne-esque exploits as they fight to escape and survive. But that actually works in the story’s favour here, giving it a tight claustrophobic feel and a sense of not really knowing what’s going on outside the door at any given time other than the brief nightmarish glimpses that the two see with their own eyes. Their increasing desperation and the lengths to which they will go to escape and save loved ones rings true in this well-written, fast-paced piece.
It’s not going to win any awards in its own right of course, but what it does do is very convincingly set up the rest of the Breakers series and easily persuade and reassure you that the author is more than talented enough to pull off the telling of the story in a top-notch manner. As far as e-books go, both Breakers and Edward W Robertson appear to be well worth giving a go if the subject matter is at all your sort of thing. And even if it isn’t, what’s to lose with a free offer?
‘Outcome’ is available free for Kindle from Amazon.co.uk, iBooks and for Kobo. At time of writing, the first full length book in the series – ‘Breakers’ – is also a free purchase on Amazon and is reduced in other stores. Books 2 and 3 are ‘Melt Down’ and ‘Knifepoint’ and currently sell for around £2.99 ($3.99) each.