(2021) G. X. Todd, Headline, £20, hrdbk, 400pp, ISBN 978-1-472-23320-2
Fantasy horror. Seven years ago, the voices came. Some people could hear them and others despised and feared them for it. As death and destruction spread, a ghostly figure was waiting in the shadows. Now the Flitting Man is ready to show his face - and no one is safe. Pilgrim was made for this broken world. He's chosen his path and will stop at nothing to see it through. Albus sees this world as others cannot. And the friends that he's kept safe are facing terrible danger. Addison belongs to a very different world. She might just be the future, if she survives…
All good things as the saying goes, as this is the fourth and final part of G. X. Todd’s 'The Voices' series, which began with Defender, followed by Hunted and then Survivors. Ghosts starts with “stirring” an extract from seven years earlier, followed by “The Last Letter of Ruby Mae Hartridge”, dated August 31st, Sunday (Seven years post-voices), which is followed by “The Lost Part: Arrows”, before we finally reach start Part One “A Dawning” some 42 pages into the book. Two more parts follow, divided into chapters featuring one of the leading characters.
For those who haven’t read any of the previous books, it might be an idea not to read this review, but get hold of a copy of Defender and start at the beginning. Meanwhile fans of the series will have been waiting for this final novel is only to see what will happen to their favourite characters, how the main plot and sub-plots will work out and if Todd can wrap things up in a way that will satisfy everyone. Tough task, that last one, and you can’t please all of the people all of the time, so instead of the ending being satisfying, is it “true” to everything that has gone on before? Well, I’m pleased to say that it probably does, which means don’t expect a whole lot of happy endings going around.
As a reminder, 'The Voices' series deals with just that, voices. Voices in people’s heads that have been urging them to commit terrible acts of violence, to others and to themselves. This resulted in the collapse of society and those who were left hunting down those who heard voices, but now the worm has turned and those who hear voices are now joining forces to get their revenge on the “voiceless”. Life is hard, and brutal, a daily struggle to survive, and the remnants of society are made up of gangs and sub-cultures and a series of religious cults. You do what you have to do to stay alive, even if it’s hard and difficult and not very nice.
One thing that might irk some readers is that there is no real explanation of the origins of the voices. There are some suggestions, or hints, but no definitive reason why they occurred. What we do get is the conclusion of the harrowing journeys of the major characters as events build to a confrontation with the Flitting Man. Throughout the series, Todd’s characterisation has been a major strength with the growth and development of the major characters, alongside their travels and trials through a grim, post-apocalyptic world which she has rendered in pretty unflinching details. Like Stephen King’s The Stand, there is probably no happy ending, what happens, happens, but at a cost, and there is a nod to Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” right at the very end, involving one of the major characters, a gun, and something that happens off page. No, no spoilers here, but it is pretty horrific if you think about it, but necessary, if you think about it some more. For some characters the journey goes on, which may give rise to the possibility of a sequel series, of sorts, but I hope not. G X Todd has delivered something unique in the sub-genre of post-apocalyptic horror and I look forward to whatever she comes up with next. Recommended for followers of the series. Newbies know what they have to do - pick up a copy of Defender and start at the beginning.
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