In a world that is fast-growing with some amazing super talent in the world of writing, books, and media, it’s easy to quickly forget the stories you’ve consumed and launch straight into the next big thing.
But as the year draws to an end, the nights get darker, and the inevitable moment in which my rabbits shit their pants in fear as fireworks announce the arrival of the New Year, here’s a breakdown of the stories that have had an impact on, not only my own writing, but on the way I view the medium of storytelling.
5. The Road, Cormac McCarthy
Yeah, I know.
I may be a bit slow on the uptake of what has already been a massively successful hit, converted into a miserable, dark film starring Viggo Aragorn. But as I was staring into the face of reflection, looking at inspiration for my own post-apocalyptic tales, all fingers pointed towards a bit of Cormac to light the way and encapsulate the genre.
Sure, the story may be a bit heavy on the old misery (after all, a world in which you’re desperate to keep yourself and your son alive with barely any hope of food, water, or shelter may not sound like everyone’s idea of a cosy Saturday in), but The Road is certainly worth it’s Pulitzer Prize winning status.
The writing here is poetic. The grammar is minimalist, reflecting the tone of the story itself. And the relationship between father and son could not be more heart-tuggy (yeah, that’s a thing), making me want to scoop my own child in my arms and hold him forever. Avoiding roads at all cost…
4. Hell’s Children, John L Monk
Hell’s Children was a surprise one for me.
After catching Mr Monk on the Self-Publishing Podcast discussing his latest book (and subsequently bringing him onto our show, The Story Studio) I decided to dive into this little treasure to see what all the fuss was about.
Boy was I not disappointed.
Hell’s Children tells a triumphant tale of survival in a post-apoc world where a rare illness wipes out the grown-ups, forcing a shift in culture for anyone left remaining around the ages of 17 and under.
Think Lord of the Flies meets The Stand and you’ll kind of get the picture.
The plot is character driven, the story feels researched, and - for those fans who enjoy sequels and series – book 2 is also now available to tuck into as well!
Oh, and if it helps, John is one of the loveliest writers I’ve ever met. (There, take your $10 JLM…)
You can listen to mine and Luke’s discussion with John L Monk on The Story Studio podcast HERE
3. Sour Candy, Kealan Patrick Burke
What would life be like, if a kid who you’d earlier witnessed terrorising his mother in a store suddenly showed up in your life? Not only that, but the kid had erased all past reality you had ever known, and everyone was telling you that he was yours?
Sour Candy freaked me the hell out. And that’s saying something – I’m a horror writer!
For a long novella, this one has stuck with me. There’s something in Kealan’s writing style that hits that fabled balance between poetic style and easy-to-read narrative. This is one that I couldn’t put down, and definitely had my heart racing with each and every page turn.
Side note: Kealan is the only person to ever psychoanalyse me on The Story Studio podcast. Listen to him breaking me down HERE
2. The End of the World as We Knew It, Nick Cole
Post-apoc in all its glory.
A refreshing tale that puts a unique spin on the PA genre. The End of the World as We Knew It feels like a modern retelling of Romeo and Juliet, only with all the spins and frills that the misery of post-apoc can bring.
The story is told through a variety of journal entries, voice messages, and POV narratives. It’s a piece-by-piece documentary-style take on the journey of two lovers searching for each other in the wastelands of the broken world.
My advice to anyone looking to read this: invest in the audiobook version. As Nick says himself on The Story Studio HERE, this tale was really written to be read. And the voice actors deliver this story with such authenticity that you feel as though you’re really experiencing this world.
1. The Troop, Nick Cutter
CAUTION: once you read, you cannot unread…
In a market polluted with clichés, overly-zealous descriptions of gore and terror, and outdated metaphors, The Troop does something that I’ve not seen in a long, long time.
Attacking every single sense (touch, smell, taste, sight, sound – just for those about to Google the five senses), the story of the scout group who have made their way to an isolated island to train their outdoor skills is riddled with descriptions that will bury their way inside your imagination and truly put you in the driving seat of this story.
Each character gets their own piece of the action as a strange man rows up to the island with an insatiable hunger that juxtaposes against his fragile frame. Something is clearly wrong. Something is moving beneath the folds of his sallow flesh, and that something is coming for the kids and their scoutmaster.
If you’re after a read that is going to stick with you long after the lights go out and the night creeps in, holy crap is this my go-to recommendation of 2017.
So, there it is! A selection of amazing reads chosen by yours truly. Already read some yourself? Drop me a comment. Got your own recommendations? Then go ahead and let me know! (I’m looking for some good reads to get stuck into in 2018…)
If you liked this article, why not check out Dan’s Patreon page over at www.patreon.com/danielwillcocks. You can get your hands on a monthly free story, as well as make story and character recommendations on upcoming stories, and have your name featured on future published works!
Join Dan and the Hawk & Cleaver gang on Facebook at www.facebook.com/groups/hawkandcleaver/