The horror/sci-fi genre has experienced a huge boom in post-apocalyptic stories in the last decade. Many are thanks to Brian Keene and The Walking Dead making zombies the popular choice these days and it shows. The market is over saturated with zombie books - some good, but most are meh...seen it, done it, read it before - and it makes me shy away from the post-apocalyptic genre, and that's really too bad. One of my favorite books of all time, Robert McCammon's Swan Song, resides smack in the middle of this genre. Even so, I normally wouldn't have picked up Hunter Shea's Tortures of the Damned, due to the aforementioned reasons, if it weren't for it being a NetGalley choice. Lucky for me, it was.
This is my first read of Shea's and it's a damn shame that I haven't jumped onto his stuff before this. T.O.D. starts off with an unexplained phenomenon happening in Yonkers, NY. Explosions are heard in the distance and all electronic devices stop working including vehicles and communication devices. As the people begin to panic, a cloud of strange smoke begins to drift into the area. The Padilla family scramble to gather their children and discover that their neighbor has an underground fallout shelter under his home. As they hide out there, the unknown is happening above ground causing a sense of dread to percolate and mix with the cabin fever that is already settling in. On top of that, two of the children in the shelter are experiencing flu-like symptoms from breathing in the strange smoke before they reached safety. With the anxiety ratcheting up and unable to establish any communication with the outside world, they decide to send the men out in search of medical help for the kids. What they find, once they leave the shelter, is that the world looks the same, except the people are gone from the neighborhood. What they also discover, while a sudden thunderstorm erupts while they are out, is that the rats in the sewers are bonkers. They flood out, attack them, and infiltrate their shelter while the men we're trying to get back in. This causes the families to vacate the shelter and take their chances topside as a group. What they find is that while most of the humans have been killed off, the animal world has become bloodthirsty and organized and danger is around every corner.
Shea takes a tired subject and gives it a great voice. You instantly become one of the Padillas as they journey into their neighborhood gone to hell. I know that the open ending of the book has left some dissatisfied. I find it very appropriate. A world that has been turned upside down, like this, wouldn't have a tidy ending. It would keep on going and what we've witnessed in Tortures of the Damned is a a moment of time in this world. We don't know what all happened before OR after and I like what he's done with it. If you enjoy Post-Apocolyptic stories, I imagine you will too.
4 crazed alley cats out of 5
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