Charlie’s got a new job.
There are a lot of benefits – he gets to travel all around the world and meet new and interesting people. He gets to broaden his horizons.
Charlie is the new Harbinger of Death.
Charlie gets to visit a small selection of his boss’s impending clients, sometimes as a courtesy, sometimes as a warning. Sometimes just to bear witness. Sometimes just to talk. And usually he brings a mysterious gift.
But things seem to be changing — Charlie begins to discover he’s no longer the only harbinger on the road. Increasingly now he crosses paths with his opposite numbers in the employ of his boss’s colleagues, War, Famine and Pestilence…
One of the first things about The End of the Day that strikes the reader is that it is set in a very real world. It’s almost set in our world were it not for the fact that here people accept that the four horsemen of the apocalypse are real, travel by jet and car rather than horse, maintain offices in Milton Keynes and employ real people as their harbingers.
This is also the book’s real strength and what makes it so chilling. All of the shocking and horrific scenes in war torn Syria and beyond witnessed by the gentle Charlie are genuine, variations of which are actually happening somewhere in our world even as we read.
The novel is an alarming record of the state of the world in the early 21st century. A catalogue of the mess the human race has got itself into: from climate change to war and revolution, taking in corporate greed, homelessness, social injustice, nationalism, xenophobia and racism along the way. And Charlie is there at ground level throughout – forced to endure the harrowing spectacle of the slow apocalypse the human race has become locked into.
This is a powerful, challenging and dark book that will no doubt stay with the reader long after they turn the last page. The novel’s language is poetic and uncompromising but — despite some of the intense horrors encountered — it is to be hoped that the reader will, like Charlie, find some humanity, optimism and beauty in its world as well.
And therefore in ours too.