SURVIVORS By G X Todd
Headline Books, h/b, £18.99
Reviewed by Matthew Johns
The third in Todd’s excellent Voices series is an electrifying read, taking the reader on a rollercoaster journey through Pilgrim’s and his voice’s past. Instead of picking up after the thrilling conclusion of book two, it delves deep into the past giving more background and context into Pilgrim. It also reveals more about the voices, about Ruby and Albus, and leaves more questions that will no doubt be answered in the very eagerly awaited fourth book.
It’s only natural to compare this to Stephen King’s The Stand due to the general concept – half of the population start hearing voices, many cajole and wheedle their hosts into committing unspeakable acts, millions die in the process, and two factions emerge. The good guys are guided by the mute Albus who sees sounds as colours (a condition known as synaesthesia). The other, darker side all follow The Flitting Man – a shadowy, almost mythological figure. However, to just make this comparison is vastly unjust – Todd’s writing deserves to stand not just alone, but also side-by-side with King’s, not in his shadow. She depicts a world filled with barbaric acts committed by desperate people. Her characters are all complex, deeply fleshed out and very realistic, not to mention easy to empathise with – even some of those that commit the awful atrocities. She depicts the impact of hearing a voice on people very compassionately and sympathetically – not just depicting them as raving lunatics. She’s clearly done a lot of research into mental illness and in fact gives a list of resources on the final page for mental health awareness and help.
One must wonder though, just what this former librarian has witnessed in those whispering corridors between books to come up with not just the plot, but the awful ways in which humanity react and the things that her characters do to each other. I did find myself wincing as I read the book – her prose brings the world of Pilgrim, Lacey and Abernathy to life in vivid colour. Perhaps these tortures she writes of she secretly wished to inflict on those that fold over the corner of a page to mark their place, or that break the spine of a book folding it almost in half?! One couldn’t blame her if so.
These superb books could easily become the next mini-series du jour on a streaming television service, but in the meantime, I’ll settle for being able to enjoy turning the pages and waiting impatiently for the next novel to find out what happens next!