Monday, 1 October 2007
‘School’s Out’ – Scott Andrews (Abaddon Books)
I’ll bet you were just like me and used to sit in the classroom thinking, “I wonder what would happen if the school burnt down?” As much as I used to think this (and wish for it) I never made the next mental step and thought, “I wonder what would happen if school was cancelled because of an apocalyptic plague and all the associated problems that brings? That’s ok, in the latest instalment of ‘The Afterblight Chronicles’ Scott Andrews gives his reader a pretty good idea of what would happen.
Lee Keegan returns to his old school to wait for his father who has promised to meet him there. In the meantime, plague has ravaged the countryside and what’s left over will prove very dangerous for the surviving boys at the school. There’s the inhabitants of a small town who want to teach the boys a ‘lesson’ and a blood crazed cult with it’s own plans in mind. Lee’s main problem though will be the return of an old prefect with a particularly sadistic streak…
While other books in the ‘Afterblight Chronicles’ series have concentrated on the situation in places like America ‘School’s Out’ takes a look closer to home, like Mad Max but set in the Home Counties. It’s an entertaining enough read with all the staple ingredients that you would expect from an Abaddon book; gunfights, madmen and graphic torture. The story itself is a fairly original idea, I haven’t read many (if any) post apocalyptic tales set in an English school and the premise alone was enough to keep me reading to find out how things went. The characters were well worth investing time in as well; Lee and Mac were pretty well fleshed out with lots of insight into what made them tick. Rowles, the psychotic ten-year-old, was a particular favourite of mine!
Like I’ve said, the mixture of ‘Mad Max’ and ‘Tom Brown’s Schooldays’ was a fairly unique approach that works well but at the same time served to hinder things as well. Whether the boys were taking lessons or drilling with firearms there was a lot of routine in their days and this seemed to be dealt with by starting a lot of sentences with lines like, “Things were to carry on like this for several months.” When you take these sentences out of the equation you’re left with about three big events in the story with a lot of filler to pad things out, ok if you’re after a light read but not so good if you want to really get stuck into something. Also, constantly bringing your main villain back from ‘certain death’ situations works a lot better on film than in a book (although I never saw the ending coming, actually I did but only because I skipped to the end just after I’d started!)
‘School’s Out’ is a good addition to the Abaddon Books ‘roster’ but you need to remember that it’s just a light read if you’ve got an hour to spare on the train. If you’re after something heavier, read something else.
Six and a Half out of Ten