The sun appears to be dying, and with it the planet, but for Steven Johnston this is only a secondary concern. When tragedy strikes Steven and his wife Sam he begins to withdraw from the woman he loves, pushing her away until she eventually leaves him. But as the mercury begins to rise and society descends into panic and chaos Steve realizes that he may only have hours left to see her for one final time, and so begins a dangerous cross country race against the clock where every second counts and tomorrow will be too late.
Having made his name with such great post apocalyptic stories as Trust and the Autumn series, David Moody has gone full circle with his latest book; originally published in 1996, Straight to You has been rewritten by Moody to bring it up to the standard of his other works. And while certain elements may have been changed, Moody’s trademark brutality and bleak realism are present and correct; beginning with an event guaranteed to pull at the heartstrings, STY is a love story with a black and burnt heart that cleverly combines a frighteningly realistic and believable end of days with a simple tale of love and hope. Although a simple and regrettably brief book, the pace and nature of the story will keep you turning the pages with regularity.
Oddly enough for a post apocalyptic horror, the characters of STY are all fully formed and believable, and even the minor characters come across as well rounded human beings. Stephen and Sam’s relationship, and its subsequent disintegration, feels natural, and every action and reaction matches what the majority of us would do in a similar situation. While the fact that the approaching apocalypse is basically background noise for the first two thirds of the book may not be to everyone’s taste this plotting decision works in the book’s favour, as by the time the true horror kicks in you are already invested in Steve and the other characters. Every moment of peril is magnified, every tiny achievement feels that much more satisfying; you aren’t just dealing with 2D stereotypes, these are real people and, in many ways, mirrors of ourselves.
Perhaps the thing that STY does best is present a true picture of a post apocalypse. Hollywood has filled us with ideas of happy endings and last minute solutions, but Moody strips away all the pretense and bullshit to give you the harsh reality of things. In this world, there are no chiselled heroes or genius scientists coming in to save the day; when it happens, the world will be filled with people just like you. Scared, alone and clueless, the problems they had before the sun fell out of the sky still as omnipresent and consuming as before, and it’s only when the end is very nigh that they let go of the petty issues that we allow to dominate our everyday lives. As things get worse, Steven sheds more and more of the items that he once considered important when he set out. His laptop, his car and his personal documents are all discarded as he realizes that the most important thing, the only thing, he needs in his life is Sam. These little moments of characterization add a searing level of familiarity to the whole story, and by the time you’ve turned the final page you won’t be planning your escape route from zombies or preparing an escape rucksack. You’ll simply be reaching out for your loved ones and holding them as tightly as you can.
Straight to You is, to paraphrase a cliché, a book of two halves. On the one hand it’s a tale of two people trying to find one another, proof that your world doesn’t stop turning just because it is ending. But on the other hand, you come away with the uncomfortable feeling that, when the end comes, there will be no last minute reprieve. Throwing these elements together, Moody has created a classic.