Author: Will McIntosh
Publisher: Night Shade Books
Number of Pages: 283
Rating: 3 Out of 5 Stars Aligned
Finn Darby life isn’t perfect, but it’s fair. While enjoying the success of Toy Shop, a weekly comic strip he illustrates, he is still silently dealing with the simultaneous loss of his wife, Lorena, and Thomas Darby, Finn’s grandfather. Trying to move on, Finn began a new life starting by resurrecting his grandfather’s comic strip and adding new characters, and even began dating.
But that life gets quickly disrupted when a massive terrorist attack cripples Atlanta with an anthrax outbreak. All over again Finn is dealing with the loss of friends, when suddenly he begins to croak out uncontrolled words and phrases in the forgotten voice of his grandfather. Soon people learn that a new epidemic is arising from the grave, as people begin to become slowly possessed by dead but persistent souls.
Banding together with a new-found group of friends, Finn is in a race to figure out what the “hitchers” (as they call the possessors) want and why they’re here. But as time runs out his grandfather, Thomas Darby slowly begins to ruin his life, and take control of Finn’s body.
My first introduction to Will McIntosh was through The Drabblecast when they covered his story Fantasy Jumper and again when they did Followed. It was after Followed that I became interested in his style of writing, something that I believe could be something called “doomed emotion”. Meaning that at some point of the story the main character/characters revolve through a mixture of emotions but only through their “doomed” feeling, (in Followed this is portrayed when the main character realizes he will never shake the zombie child that stalks him) does the character find solace, or meaning to their troubles.
Hitchers is no exception to this theme in my opinion. Sure there is action that moves the story from place to place, but the way McIntosh uses emotion to carry the reader to each place is something I like in his writing. The opening scene with the Anthrax outbreak, and the death of over half of Atlanta was enough to get me started, but the struggles that each character had with their past, and the stories behind the “hitchers” that possessed them was what kept my attention throughout the book.
At first I was not amused by the comic strip portion of the novel, but as time went on I found myself enjoying them as something tangible from the story, and in the end I could almost imagine McIntosh drawing these.
Though the emotion of the characters is a big part of my liking the story, I did find it hard at times to believe that the grandfather could honestly be that much of an asshole as he was. Something else that bothered me was how every time Finn and his friends had to find someone, or something they usually happened upon the right spot right away. I suppose though, it’s better than them wandering through Atlanta looking for people, even with half a million people suddenly gone.
This is the second book from Will McIntosh his first being Soft Apocalypse. He is the winner of a Hugo-Award and a Nebula finalist. He has published over twenty short stories in magazines such as Asimov’s, Daily Science Fiction, Interzone, Lightspeed Magazine, and Strange Horizons. Soft Apocalypse is a finalist for The 2012 John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best SF Novel, The 2012 Locus Award for Best First Novel, and The 2012 Compton Crook Award for Best First Novel. He also has a story, Over There, forthcoming in Asimov’s January 2013 issue.
All in all Hitchers is something worth reading. I found myself laughing at parts, which is great, but I wish that there was a little more terror and suspense involved. The story is emotional and moving, but on the balance could have had more spine… no pun intended. I do plan on reading Soft Apocalypse, but I do hope it’s as good as they say, and hopefully at least a little better than Hitchers.
Next on the docket is The Damned Highway: Fear and Loathing in Arkham, by Brian Keene and Nick Mamatas. Mixing the worlds of H.P. Lovecraft, and Hunter S. Thompson for what looks like a sanity blasting trip. Buy the ticket and take the ride my friends.