THE SaMARITAN by Dave Jeffery
Demain Publishing, ebook, £2.15
Reviewed by Sarah Deeming
MNG-U has swept through the population, killing millions. The survivors have lost loved ones and if they caught the disease and recovered their hearing. In this silent new world, society has fragmented into three groups. The survivors, the Harks and the Harbingers. The Harks are the lucky few who can still hear and are slaves for the survivors. The Harbingers were born Deaf and are still marginalised even though they are part of the majority. The survivors blame people born deaf for spreading the disease without any scientific evidence.
Nathan is a Samaritan from Cathedral, the new city-state that has risen from the ashes of Birmingham. His role is to scavenge supplies, protect Cathedral’s citizens from other bands of survivors and uncover any Harbingers hiding in the vicinity. Nathan, left for dead on a mission, is saved by a couple with a Harbinger daughter. Cathedral has taught him the Harbingers are responsible for MNG-U, for Nathan losing his partner, but Lily was born after MNG-U. She can’t be blamed for events that happened before her birth. Under the watchful eye of her parents, Lily forms a friendship with Nathan, which offers him the chance at a different life.
THE SaMARITAN is the third instalment in Dave Jeffery’s a Quiet APOCALYPSE universe with a closer look at the most threatening force we’ve met so far, the Samaritans. In a Quiet APOCALYPSE, Chris fears meeting them when he leaves his hiding place. In CaTHEDRAL, Sarah is in awe of them as they keep her safe despite the personal risk. Now, we meet Nathan, a Samaritan, and he is not the devil the previous books have made him out to be. He is just a man. Before MNG-U, he was a children’s book illustrator with his partner James. When he leaves Cathedral, he is only interested in finding supplies and keeping his team safe. Nathan is relatable, and it is through him that we explore the concept of family.
Jeffery’s writing style is clean, creating memorable characters in the details. It is also the ideal style for horror because the starkest sentence has the most impact. Every word is necessary to tell the story. Every section drives the story forward. The choice of the first-person narrative cleverly draws us into Nathan’s character, revealing his pain so intimately it broke my heart.
On his deathbed, Nathan’s partner, James, left him a letter asking Nathan to find a way through without James and make a new family. Nathan finds this in the Samaritans through their shared grief and a sense of duty. When he encounters a mother and father standing beside their Harbinger child, Lily, despite society blaming her for their deafness, Nathan sees an alternative to his Cathedral family. Both offer acceptance, but Cathedral gives him an outlet for his impotent rage while Lily rekindles creativity.
However, this is a horror story, and Jeffery is a master of his craft. Throughout the domestic scenes with Lily and her family, tension builds in the little off-moments because we know this peace cannot last. Despite my increasing dread, I was compelled to read because the characters are so vivid and honest. I was attached to them and needed them to find safety, but that would be too easy.
If Nathan’s past broke my heart, his future destroyed me. Nathan’s journey is powerful, moving from revulsion when he discovers Lily is a Harbinger to saving her and her family from the local militia group. Then Jeffery hit me with the ending. I wanted something Disneyfied, but Jeffery stayed true to his universe. That loyalty to a Quiet APOCALYPSE’s grim reality meant I appreciated the ending even though I wish it could have been otherwise. To give the reader anything would have been disrespectful. Be warned, it is not for the faint-hearted.
I believe you will know an author’s skill by whether you can pick up a book out of sequence and access the world. Absolutely, you can read THE SaMARITAN in isolation, but as part of the series, it is full of depth and nuance, making it impossible to put down. Perfection might be an unachievable dream, but THE SaMARITAN is damned near close.