The Last Storm by Tim Lebbon
Recently, Fantasy Book Nerd's good friend Gingernuts of Horror website ran a feature interview with Tim Lebbon talking about his upcoming new release, The Last Storm (Read it Here!). This is well worth a look-see (and also seeing GNOH's website is also a treat of you are a horror fan)
Today, however, here is a review of The Last Storm from me!
With global warming out of control, large swathes of North America have been struck by famine and drought and are now known as the Desert. A young woman sets out across this dry, hostile landscape, gradually building an arcane apparatus she believes will bring rain to the parched earth.
Jesse lives alone, far from civilization. Once, he too made rain, but he stopped when his abilities caused fatalities, bringing down not just rain but scorpions, strange snakes and spiders. When his daughter Ash inherited this tainted gift, Jesse did his best to stop her. His attempt went tragically wrong, and he believes himself responsible for her death.
But now his estranged wife Karina brings news that Ash is still alive. And she’s rainmaking again. Terrified of what she might bring down upon the desperate communities of the Desert, they set out to find her. But Jesse and Karina are not the only ones looking for Ash. As the storms she conjures become more violent and deadly, some follow her seeking hope. And one is hungry for revenge.
As a first introduction to Tim Lebbon's work, this near future, cli - fi horror took my breath away in it's brilliance.
The story is a multi - pov story set in a near future where the world and its environment is in turmoil. The world is besieged by lands that are steadily turning into a landscape of arid desert, tumultuous flash flooding that destroys anything in front of the deluge, and wild fires rage, slowly eating the landscape in its horrifying wake.
The Last Storm starts with Jesse,.a rainmaker, attempting to call forth blessed precipitation in order to water the lands of a dangerous drug baron. You see, Jesse is a 'rainmaker', who has the mysterious powers of being able to call forth rain. However, things go disastrously wrong, and instead of bringing rain, he opens the door to a plague of scorpions.
Cut to many years later, we see Jesse as he is now, living in isolation, alone after his family has fractured. His daughter is dead, and his wife has gone. He lives off the grid, and has withdrawn from life, until out of the blue, his wife arrives on his doorstep proclaiming that his daughter is not dead and is attempting to use her powers.
Throughout the book the story revolves around the differing perspectives of the main protagonists. We have Jesse, his wife, Karina, Ash, the supposedly dead daughter, the antagonist Jimi and Cee, who becomes important to the story as Ash's lover/carer.
Now one of the things that I love about this book is the fact that it has a blend of genres, but the central edict revolves around the family unit, even though it is fractured through most of the book, with Ash's parents attempting to get to her before she uses her power
The characters in The Last Storm are all richly brought to life with backstories that give depth and complexity to their character. All the main characters add to the story except Ash, who seems to be feverishly aloof from the events that are happening around her, and she seems to need caring for. This plays well throughout the story as it shows us how the raninmakers operate and the difficulties that they encounter. She is obsessed with her power and it is the driving force of her travelling throughout the lands of The Last Storm.
The idea of the Rainmakers are really innovative and something that captured my imagination. The magic lies wholly with one family and with each successive generation, it has become increasingly tainted, finally ending with Ash. For the first part of book we follow Ash as she assembles the machine that she needs to access her powers and I found that this is one of the exceptional aspects to Tim Lebbon's writing as he makes the unbelievable believable.
I really connected with the undertones of cosmic horror that runs through the book, threatening to spill over into the world. As this is one of my favourite genres I loved to see how this was uncovered layer by layer.
One of the things that makes horror particularly scary is that it is based on tangible themes that may be distorted but not outside the realms of possibility, and Tim Lebbon successfully taps into this ethos which translates to a serious and incontrovertible possibility. When we look at the changes that the climate has wrought on the environment, they are not beyond the what we see everyday, for instance, the devastation caused by raging bush fires. The absolute destruction of flash floods and the havoc they wreak.Im addition to that, we have the arid dustbowls that have arisen due to prolonged droughts.
This is a taut and tense book, but it seems to mainly centre on family and forgiveness. I have come late to Tim Lebbon, but with this book, he showcases the power of his writing and shows that like the nature that he describes he is a force to be reckoned with.