Soon by Lois Murphy
Titan, pb, £7.99
Reviewed by Sarah Deeming
Nebulah, Australia, is cursed. On the winter solstice, a mist descended on the town. Quickly, the inhabitants learned not to go out after dark. Sometimes seductive, the mist entices people outside and tears them apart. Unable to cope with the restrictions, most of the town leaves, until only six remain.
A few months later, Pete is one of the last in Nebulah, with no emotional or financial support outside of the town, he is forced to stay. He has a routine, keeping Nebulah ghost-hunter tourist free, which is keeping him just about alive and sane. However, when helping a stranded psychic from being devoured by the mist, he is giving an ultimatum; leave Nebulah before the summer solstic or he will die. Galvanised, Pete leaves, taking the last resident with him. Or so he thinks. On the eve of the summer solstice, Pete discovers someone he cares about has gone back to Nebulah forcing him to choose between his life or theirs.
Soon is written exclusively from Pete’s point of view and opens with the suicide of the seventh resident of Nebulah who can no longer cope with the mental trauma of the mist. We’re treated to a detailed reveal of Pete’s character, his belief that he was a terrible policeman tempted with his sensitive handling of the situation.
Action builds slowly. The town is already abandoned apart from a tiny band of misfits, and even the press interest in the phenomenon has subsided. We see Pete going about what remains of his life, his desire to protect people even as he dismisses the tourists as idiots and get a sense of the regrets that keep him in a doomed town. This in-depth character study up front hooked me straight away. Murphy drip feeds information both about the decline of the town, and Pete’s history skilfully, weaving them together so there is always some new discovery keeping you turning the page.
I also found the demographic of the characters a draw. Most of them are retired which adds an insightful slant on the actions of the younger characters, particularly the young psychic who thinks she can commune with the mist and walk away unharmed. Conflict between the generations seethes throughout the book as well as tension between those who believe the mist is dangerous and those who don’t.
Soon is a literary horror and I made the mistake of finishing it just before bed. While I struggled to sleep, and when I did my dreams were full of mist, I have no regrets. The ending was strong and satisfying with a good balance of unanswered questions as well as resolutions to stay with you after you’ve finished. I would definitely recommend it if you’re a fan of the genre.