Science fiction and fantasy                                            

End Times

by Rio Youers


End Times is one of those books that doesn't fit neatly into any particular genre. It defies categorisation as fantasy, horror, urban paranormal or mystery, being a little bit of all of these things yet not really any of them. It's as unconventional a novel as its hero, Scott Hennessey, a recovering heroin addict.

Scott is an extraordinary character. He's spineless in the face of temptation, but he has an all-or-nothing recklessness that makes him utterly riveting. Rio Youers is very good at using arresting images to hook the reader in as irresistibly as the addiction that captures his central character. One such image is Scott's fingers, cut off with a sushi knife so that he has nothing left but his thumbs on both hands. But the author doesn't stop there, assaulting readers with vivid depictions of mutilation and degradation at every turn. Scott's descent into drug addiction is only the start of a story that takes in life on the streets, strange cults, murder, obsession, and saviours who seem too good to be true.

Scott has kicked his addiction and taken up a new life as a journalist. He thinks he's made a break with the past. But after he picks up Mia Floats Softly walking in the rain he discovers the past has a stronger hold on him than he thought, and he can't escape his nature so easily.

End Times is full of tantalising mysteries. Is Mia a ghost, a witch, or something else entirely? What does she want with Scott, and did he do anything to deserve her wrath? Why did he lose his fingers? And what did the Followers of the Voice get up to? The story is more interesting because of the realism of most of the characters, who come across as everyday people. Scott's paraplegic friend Sebby Cross is described with sympathy, but he's far too cheeky and well-rounded to become a mere figure of pity.

The story asks whether desire ruins us, and if it's ever possible to escape from it. Mia pursues Scott with the inevitability of destiny, like the fate written in the broken life-line on his palm. People in the story are always reaching too far for what they want, often getting burned or finding out that what they were after wasn't real in any case.

There's a change of pace and tone at the end of the book, when Scott travels to a Sioux reservation in Dakota. The tale slows down and becomes dreamier. The author gives fair warning of this early on in the book, but it's still quite a contrast with the grittier early chapters.

I didn't love the simplicity of the ending because I thought the story raised questions about human nature that can't be solved in one fell swoop. But I'm nitpicking. End Times is a searing exploration of pain, love, loss and addiction, told with skill and originality. File under Books That Will Change You.

27th September 2010

Book Details

Year: 2010

Categories: Books

    Male Protagonist  
  Not For The Squeamish  

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4 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson

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