I had a second Tim Waggoner novella just waiting to be read and that is a very good thing. I was very excited about “The Last Mile” as it is a DarkFuse book so I anticipated that it would be very good. Waggoner and DarkFuse are two of the scariest things I can think of so I dove into the story expecting it to lead to another sleepless night in a fully lit house to keep the creepy crawlies in their shadowed corners.
Dan wanted to be the best husband and father that he could be for his family and thought that he was doing a good job. Then came the day when the television started airing nothing buy static and random reruns and his wife seemed to lose her sanity. Dan tried to keep it together even while he kept his daughter from seeing the horror that his wife had become. Then, after days of remaining mute, Dan’s wife told him to go outside. Ever dutiful, Dan did what he was told. He stepped outside and met his Master.
There many new Masters in the changed world but Dan had his Master who took care of him and his family as long as Dan did as he was told. That is why he finds himself driving along an abandoned road and trying not to think about what is in the back seat. Dan is a good servant for his Master and does as he is told. He does not always like it but his Master is thankful and supplies him with what he and his family needs. In the dangerous land of the World After, Dan may only be surviving but that alone means he is doing better than most people.
While I knew that Tim Waggoner seldom pulls any punches in his books, “The Last Mile” is a fairly brutal novella and definitely not for the weak of heart. This book has a little bit of everything and Waggoner describes it all in a detailed yet not gratuitous manner. There were passages that made me cringe and yet I never once thought that Waggoner was doing this for shock value alone. Instead, he knows that he is describing a post-apocalyptic world that is savage and violent and uses words that fit into that world. This novella opens with a quick slap to the face that left me wondering what I had just read and closes with a punch to the gut that is a bit painful but ultimately satisfying. This is a short novella and Waggoner packs every sentence with a punch.
“The Last Mile” is a breath of fresh air in post-apocalyptic fiction in that it is a world that has been completely changed to become a primal and violent world and there are no zombies anywhere to be seen. This is the apocalypse by way of Lovecraft rather than George Romero and that is a very good thing. Waggoner crafts a story that is part science fiction and part horror and is sure to shock and entertain. “The Last Mile” shows that Waggoner is a master of the novella. Had this story been a novel, it may have been too long and become tedious. Instead, Waggoner handles the book with a deft touch that is just enough to satisfy but not so much as to become long winded. “The Last Mile” is a very good horror novella and a fine example of why DarkFuse is my favorite publisher of dark fiction.
I would like to thank DarkFuse and NetGalley for this advance review copy. “The Last Mile” is scheduled to be released by DarkFuse in October and is available for preorder now.