Review – Dead Kelly by CB Harvey

Posted: June 24, 2014 in Sci-Fi
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After Malcolm Cross’ fantastic Orbital Decay, I couldn’t help but read the second novella in Journal of the Plague Year. But, where Cross’ story was full of claustrophobic darkness and creeping isolation in space, the next instalment was as different as could be. Harvey’s take on the Afterblight is all sun bleached-parched Earth and brutal, full throttle action. It’s a story that doesn’t let go as it powers forward into ever increasing violence.

Set in Australia, mere months after the outbreak of the disease that has destroyed the planet’s population, the action focuses on Kelly McGuire. A former gang boss and violent criminal who went on the run just before the ‘Cull’ struck. Whilst he made good his escape from the police in the outback, the apocalypse took Australia and left it in ruins and a chance encounter, that ends badly for the poor souls who run into McGuire, sets him on a path back toward his old haunts and a chance at vengeance.

McGuire, we soon discover, is a fully functioning psychopath who was on the run because somebody grassed him up during his last robbery. He begins to encounter old members of his gang and quickly begins to take his revenge just as quickly as they try to eliminate the obvious threat he poses to them and their new found status. Clearly, in the apocalypse, men and women with few morals and the skills to survive have found their niche. These guys are old school crims where it’s all business even as someone tries to set you on fire to send a message…

The story follows McGuire as he goes from encounter to violent encounter, his history slowly revealed and his total amoral attitude and desire for control pushed to the fore. But, that’s not to say this protagonist is stupid. Far from it. He quickly appraises the situation and realises what he has to do to be the top dog once again. Using an old Australian legend that is Ned Kelly’s armour, found in a museum, coupled with his own legendary status as Dead Kelly, the criminal, McGuire uses violence and mythic symbols as motivating reasons for his position of power.

This is the essence of Harvey’s text, it’s about control and power whether that is found by using mythic symbols, such as religion or legend, or through violence, condoned or otherwise. But, it is also about legend (and violence) as legacy – not just what those symbols stood for in the past; instead what will they mean for the future. This is McGuire’s real journey.

CB Harvey’s story has some great twists and turns at the end, things that both explain and conclude the novella brilliantly. On its way there, though, it is an adrenaline fuelled, barn-burner of a read. Populated by tough, brutal characters and the madness of hope and crushing reality in the face of absolute desolation, Harvey’s tale reads like a mix between Mad Max on steroids and the historical legend of Ned Kelly on crack. It’s energetic, exciting and extreme in its take on the apocalypse because, in the end, violence and rage win out. If you’re looking for a rush, Dead Kelly will deliver.

Review copy
Published by Abaddon

  1. […] setting of the Afterblight. After the awesome Journal of the Plague Year which I reviewed here and here comes End of the End, a collection of stories detailing the post-apocalyptic landscape […]

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