HEaR TODaY …
It is one of the most devastating events in human history, a deadly virus that killed most of the world and deafened the few who survived. In the chaos of the aftermath, the city of Cathedral emerged, and with it, a brutal regime of oppression and violence.
Now, years later, the city is in ruins, and the scene is set for a reckoning. A tribunal seeks to make sense of what happened behind Cathedral’s walls, so it can exact justice on those who fostered atrocity. Imprisonment or a noose await those found guilty.
But things are not as they were before this quiet apocalypse. Testimony and statement will make clear that the lines between good and evil are no longer clear. Against a backdrop of ambiguity, a verdict must be reached, and justice served.
Yet this decision will affect more than the lives of those on trial. It is to be the defining moment in humanity’s willingness to learn lessons from its own near extinction. With all the evidence in place, there is no avoiding what must be done.
It’s time to choose …
SALES LINK: TRIBUNAL
And that, my horned brethren, is how to write a book series. Sincerely, I finished reading the last page of ‘Tribunal’, looked up at my partner, and told him, “This is the best book series I’ve ever read.” I’ve read Anne Rice’s ‘The Vampire Chronicles’, the collective efforts of Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga (who is absolutely lovely, by the way) in their ‘The Walking Dead’ novels, Stephen King’s ‘The Dark Tower’ series… the list goes on. But the ‘A Quiet Apocalypse’ series is the closest to perfection I’ve ever read in a series because… well, yeah, it’s perfect. For me at least.
The format of this is different to its predecessors in that it takes place as a series of documents and court records attempting to contextualise and understand the events of the viral apocalypse, and in particular, the town of Cathedral and its various crimes against humanity. I’ll be honest, when I started reading and saw court dates and witness numbers, my heart sank a little. This is is no way intended as an insult towards the author, it’s just that of all narrative devices, I tend to absolutely hate legal frameworks. While I enjoy things like diary entries and newspaper clippings, etc, there’s something about court stuff that puts me to sleep. I don’t like courtroom drama on the screen either. Luckily for me, Dave Jeffery knows what he’s doing. What I initally feared was going to be a somewhat boring (to me) instalment of the series turned out to be an enthralling finale that managed to up the emotional intensity despite the just-state-the-facts coldness that a courtroom usually offers.
Characters from the first three books, ‘A Quiet Apocalypse’, ‘Cathedral‘, and ‘The Samaritan’ are brought back in the form of witness testimonies and statements, and new characters are introduced in the form of the legal team determining what happened, who is guilty for the crimes of Cathedral, and how they should be punished (imprisonment or death are the options that appear to be on offer here).
What is truly extraordinary is that despite already knowing these characters (some of them very well, since we were in their heads in their respective chapters of the overall story), Jeffery manages to present them in a more objective way, from a different viewpoint, and it really coloured how I originally felt about them. Now, I’m not saying that by the end of some of their previous stories, I was on side with their decisions. I’m not saying they weren’t detestable. However, in the cases of Sarah and Nathan, I was more disappointed and devastated about their final decisions than anything else. Though these characters were either complicit in or outright responsible for some heinous practices and actions, I viewed them as victims of circumstance, fear, severe trauma, and conditioning. Did I lose some (a lot of) sympathy for them after they did certaint things? Yes. Did I still feel sorry for them for what they’d endured? Also yes. Did I still see them as a human? Yes.
‘Tribunal’ takes you out of their heads and shows them to us through the eyes of the people who overthrew their unhinged regime – others who were deafened by the virus, the same as them. And all of a sudden, these characters that I was conflicted about before are straight-up monsters. It was almost astonishing to me how different their personalities seemed when viewed through a different perspective, which just goes to show that in questions of morality (and also, past events), perception is absolutely everything.
A counsellor once told me that memories aren’t reliable because they’re subject to influence by hindsight, personal perception, and a whole host of other things like how you view yourself, which is often very different from how others view you. Also, your mind has a tendency to try to shield you from the pain that comes out of emotions, like guilt, for example. Sometimes, we reshape things out of self-preservation or a whole host of other reasons, but we don’t even know we’re doing it. Have you ever had an ongoing argument with someone about something they said and they forever vehemently deny saying it? It’s possible that neither of you are lying, and both of you remember the exact same event differently.
This is something that comes in to play here, especially with Nathan, only we know the truth because we were there during the events that are now being reflected upon.
Sarah’s testimony was the most compelling to me because of how absolutely hateful and set in her convictions she was – significantly more so than in ‘Cathedral’. This could be because she’s changed a lot since we last saw her, or because she was always this awful but because we previously experienced her character through her own lens, and she doesn’t view herself as a horrible person, her true character just wasn’t apparent to us before.
Prefect’s testimony was a blood-boiler, on account of the revelations that came out about certain things in Cathedral. What we already knew was bad enough, worse than the worst, and yet somehow… it gets worse! He’s more vile and hypocritical than you could ever imagine, and yet Jeffery imagined it well enough to sew it into the fabric of this overall story and then pick at the thread until it came undone.
There are parallels between Prefect’s defence of Cathedral and our current real-world politics, which made me very uncomfortable. Things like insisting that the Harks (people who still have their hearing) were treated well. They might have limbs removed so they can’t escape, and their tongues cut out so they have no voice, but they’re fed and sheltered – what more do these people want, for crying out loud!? It reminded me of the way disabled people are treated in the UK on the “benefit” system. If you’ve no experience with this, you might be under the impression that people who can’t work due to a disability are receiving handsome sums by which they live luxurious lives. The reality is actually more akin to being thrown chicken-feed to survive on, having no option to improve things for yourself, scraping money together for years to buy a badly-needed new sofa or – gasp – some sort of treat, like a new TV, and then being berated for it because it “came out of the pocket of the taxpayer’”. And you’re told you should be grateful for this – being allowed to exist (but only exist – God forbid you achieve a quality of life that allows you to actually enjoy things), while being regarded with apathy at best, and disdain and vitriol at worst, by a dissapointingly large number of your fellow citizens.
And oh look, this is all run by someone that the public has entrusted with their communal wellbeing, and though this leader claims to be doing things for the good of all, they’re actually just a bigoted hypocrite only concerned with themselves.
Sorry, that was a bit of a rant, wasn’t it? I might be a little bit angry about these issues, due to seeing it first-hand. Anyway, I guess the point I’m making is that this book is really thought-provoking. Really gets the old head cogs turning up there. I felt quite a lot of things as I read this, clearly.
Once again, Jeffery ends with something that stings, but also elicits thought and introspection, and reflection, and raises questions that are really very important.
This book series is outstanding. The overall framework is excellent – three self-contained stories, finished with an objective, rounded account that offers new perspectives and introduces the question of where we go from here. I love stories that make me question what I would do if it were me, and I love them more if I find myself in moral limbo, struggling with the available options. It takes an immensely talented author to write such heinous characters as protagonists instead of antagonists, and have us empathising with them and rooting for them to become better people, instead of for their demise.
This series has shades of everything I love in all my favourite dystopian fiction (it even has a little splash of Midsommer in there – I’m thinking of the Ascension ritual and the way the entire community shows up to “share the pain”). As far as this type of fiction goes, I personally think this is superior to ‘The Road’ by Cormac McCarthy, especially in terms of character, and as much as I love ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ by Margaret Atwood, the A Quiet Apocalypse series is undoubtedly ranked above that too.
When I want an escapist retreat, I’ll read what I consider the fun, fluffy side of horror – vampires, zombies, werewolves, and of course, the Dark Lord. When I want to think, I’ll read Dave Jeffery.
“The future is hopeless without wisdom.”
Sales links for all 4 books in the series are below, and I can’t recommend each and every one of them enough.
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