Epeolatry Book Review: Jamie Hallow and the End of the World by A. V. Wilkes
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Title: Jamie Hallow and the End of the World
Author: A. V. Wilkes
Publisher: Cemetery Gates Media
Genre: Horror, Fantasy, LGBTQIA+
Release date: July 11, 2023
Synopsis: Jamie Hallow is an Unbeliever…
For thousands of years, the Legion protected humanity from eldritch terrors. But when the nukes dropped, the balance was broken. The Legion retreated underground, ceding the surface to radioactive fall-out, surface scavengers, and things from Outside.
Several years since the war’s end, queer teenage misfit Jamie Hallow – Legion born and raised – finds the bunker’s theocracy stifling. His ex-boyfriend has pledged allegiance to the secretive Taskforce, running missions into the hot zone of the crumbling city.
And when Jamie learns just what his ancient cult is prepared to do to ‘save’ humanity, he must choose where his loyalties lie.
A novella from A.V. Wilkes — HP Lovecraft meets Mean Girls by way of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.
Jamie Hallow is a delightfully unnerving novella with a big heart at its core. We climb down into the pumping bowels of The Legion, a privileged theocratic cult locked away under post-nuclear Earth’s hostile surface wasteland. This very digestible book seeps atmosphere, with worldbuilding that makes sense for the character and his point in life. Jamie Hallow articulates exactly the emotional beats required for this British-teen-centred apocalypse.
It’s full of tasty imagery too: the sweating, black-walled furnace of the hellish underground church, the writhing tattoos of witch sisters and magickal outsider ‘Rat’ children communing with alien creatures. The witches’ manipulative magick, akin to the insidious, insulting violence of Jessica Jones’s Killgrave, or The Lunar Chronicles’s Queen Levana.
It’s interesting to discover this world through the perspective of wonder and mystery; Jamie is in the dark about a lot of how his now-world works. He is coming of age, shedding that awkward stage when you can’t quite make sense of all the parts of the body and what they do. His repulsion at encountering other bodies that present in unconventional ways – unrestrained, ugly – evokes a tangible point in young adulthood; wanting to escape that which so recently was within oneself.
Earnest sensibilities set this apart from The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, in which characters’ morals shapeshift to deliver a more fluid, sprawling story. Jamie’s a good kid, true to himself, and deserves better than his current society – he sees this for the surface-dwelling Rat kids too and becomes a queer godparent of sorts.
The cast of characters is nicely diverse, integrating gay, non-binary and bi/pan+ teens (Jamie “can’t sit on chairs properly”, so if you’re on my side of that Venn diagram, you’ll feel seen). It’s refreshing to hold court with a core set of queer characters in a world of otherness, where their own beings are not what is abhorrent or incomprehensible. The Rats introduce a recognisable element of intersectionality, mirroring modern classism and xenophobia; how we categorise personhood. This world is entirely alien but of course immediately recognisable as a politically-possible future. The blurry sense of time, the finite space and forced proximity of lockdown, the clear divide between the now and “the before-times”, the sense of helplessness at terrors outside our control, a forever-changed perspective. Brainwashed busyness.
Jamie’s narrative drifts in and out of memories from various points of the apocalyptic timeline and his personal encounters with it; a dream state pairing with the waking of the oldest, most terrible evil. He is risen. Realising his privilege, he confronts the fact that, “We are not good people,” and sets out in pursuit of the right thing. His pureness of heart mixed with his cynical awareness of his community is exactly what brings this Lovecraftian cosmic horror into a current voice. The unspeakable wrongness of unfathomable alien terrors – and of the human response.
The vastness and variety of the horror – “the mundanity of evil” versus the glimmering, rithing Mi-Gos and shambling shoggoths. The duality of awe and repulsion, and the addition of hope, coming to terms with one’s lot and meeting the world where it is now. This story maintains the personhood of its human cast while also making them small and insectlike, at the mercy of much bigger, incomprehensible things. Equally the stakes are wide-ranging, from missing an ex, to schismatic execution, to obliteration that violates the fabric of the universe itself.
Jamie Hallow is hopeful, altruistic, just-un-jaded enough to take that wild leap of faith for humanity that could (and, in all likelihood, will) lead to death. Pretty damn soon.
This is a must-read if you liked any of the comp titles in the synopsis, or classic Goosebumps books Why I’m Afraid of Bees and The Blob That Ate Everyone. Oh, and if you enjoyed All the White Spaces, your climbing and low-temperature training will come in handy.
You can Pre-order your copy today at Amazon!
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