Oh hey! I bet you’d thought I’d vanished for good right? Wrong. Here I am, it’s been a really busy month finishing off my dissertation and I had very little energy for anything else. But while battling through my month the book I chose to see me through was incredibly well written and a very good choice. Your Brother’s Blood is something I’ve been meaning to read for a very long time, I am a little biased because I know the author, but I am so glad I finally got around to this novel.
Your Brother’s Blood is an exceptionally vivid novel. Through my busy month it was a very easy novel to dip in and out of and remember where I was. It’s elegantly written and a little playful at times. But Towsey has a masterful grasp on his writing style, it grips you, it is Bradbury-like in how vivid and surprising it can be, and it never feels overwritten or long winded. Images are exciting, engaging and generally this is an economic book that achieves an enormous amount in a short space.
When I say this is a zombie novel, do not mistake me – this is no ordinary zombie novel. This is an exciting read because it is far from ordinary. It is not your typical ‘we’ve sodded up the earth and now a virus is making people eat people’ narrative. No no, this novel is set a hundred years from now in a western, cowboy style America and is a little different.
Technology has vanished almost all together and humanity has continued on in a revived Old West where the relics of the Automated Age have no place. As such the small town of Barkley is like something out of a John Wayne movie, if that John Wayne movie was subjected to a severe religious doctrine. Yes! There are spitting gunslingers who you will love every inch of. Yes! There are some characters who will make your skin crawl. But the religious frame work was really something I did not expect at all from this novel and it is utterly brilliant. I feel this is something very difficult to do well and Towsey absolutely achieves it with flying psychedelic colours.
So what’s going on then? Okay, where do I start?
Sarah McDermott is living the nightmare of loosing her husband to a Civil War. Her and her daughter Mary, are surviving grief and the day to day of running their shop. But little do they know that Thomas was indeed one of many casualties in his particular battle but the bodies haven’t been disposed of correctly in his mass grave. So Thomas wakes as a Walkin’ (zombie), he is slight burnt, confused, and very different from your typical brains eating guy.
Thomas can feel no pain, he cannot dream, he doesn’t need to eat or sleep and he won’t die again unless he is burnt or beheaded. But he has all of his memories, he remembers being alive, he remembers his family and everything up until the moment he dies. This significant change into his second life, is also wracked with choices. (Very much like being a graduate.)
Does he try to take his own life now he has become what his small religious town has taught him is evil and wrong? Does he even try to go back to his family? Does he take a new direction with his new found second life and bumble around looking for purpose? (Honestly, so so much like being a graduate… wait… am I a Walkin’?) His choices mount up while he explores the damage to his body which have to be some of my favourite descriptions of a zombie corpse ever. I haven’t found more satisfying descriptions of a bayonet wound.
When he does eventually limp back to town he risks dragging his entire family into a battle of ambitions, religious ideas, and world views. Thomas of course has to go on the run and is pursued by a posse that couldn’t highlight this conflict better, a religious acolyte ready for blood, his own brother Samuel, the reluctant Grave Keeper, and the Law-Man. There is a lot going on in this novel and it is great!
He spins a wonderful yarn. Rich characters that are well thought out and as believable as his world. There is also a very well balanced view of humanity the good, the bad and the ugly (No I couldn’t resist. Not apologising). But also there is real success within Your Brother’s Blood to give dignity to the Walkin’ and in encouraging questions as to who the monsters really are in this novel.
If you can’t tell, I really enjoyed it, and I’d read it again. I’ve been telling everyone I can about it. I’ve also bought the second in the trilogy so prepare yourself there is so much more to come.