Floaters by Garrett Boatman
Crystal Lake Publishing, ebook, £2.91
Reviewed by Sarah Deeming
Victorian London is facing a plague, unlike anything it has seen before. Floaters, zombies, are hiding beneath the murky waters of the Thames, waiting to grab the unsuspecting living. Will Tagget of the Lambeth Lads, one of London’s many criminal gangs, knows it’s only a matter of time before the floaters come ashore hunting for more meat. The police won’t do anything; they don’t believe what they can’t see, so it is up to Will and the other gangs of London to save the city. But are these lads and ladies, educated in the rough city streets, clever enough to outsmart the living dead?
Floaters is an interesting premise. Zombies are stalking the rivers of London, and only the criminal element is capable of doing anything about it. The story starts with two rival gang members fighting over bragging rights. The scene leaves us with no doubt that they can achieve the right level of violence to survive. The decision to temporarily swap from criminal to saviour is based on the gangs’ desire to keep them and their loved ones safe. Plus, it’s only a matter of time before they’re blamed for the disappearances. I appreciated this choice of viewpoint. The majority of fighting in stories is often done by the lower ranks, so using the gangs, Garrett gives us a believable, and qualified, ‘army’ and immediacy for the action.
The events take place over a very short space of time; most of the book is dedicated to a single night of action. This means there’s no saggy middle, and with the constant pressure, the story moves along at a great pace. The environment is also used to good effect, with the fog of Victorian London the perfect place to hide hoards of the undead, and with Garrett’s knowledge of the city and its waterways, you are grounded in time and place.
My only issue with Floaters is the wealth of knowledge Garrett brings to his story. It’s reasonably common knowledge that there were many criminal gangs in London during the Victorian era. In trying to create an atmosphere of a community coming together, Garrett mentions every gang whenever listing who is involved. When that is added to the number of characters in the story, it gets a bit much. It’s hard to track who is in which gang or dating which person (Garrett also gives the women a strong participating role which is great, but another load of names to remember). All these character and gang names got in the way of a great little story, preventing me from really investing in the characters.
That aside, Floaters has many qualities. There is no denying Garrett’s skill in building tension and using a specific location and time period to create an atmosphere, like the dark canal tunnels and the knacker’s yards. The detailed history will appeal to some people, and for everyone else, there are zombies, so there is definitely something for everyone.