THE LAST STORM by Tim Lebbon

THE LAST STORM

Tim Lebbon (timlebbon.net)

Titan Books (titanbooks.com)

£8.99

Buy a copy from your favourite independent bookshop

Jesse is a Rainmaker, like his mother before him, and on back through the generations as far as the family can remember. In an America ravaged by climate change with large swathes known as the Desert, Jesse should be in demand. Instead he’s living as for off the grid as he can possibly get, because when Jesse makes it rain, it brings with it strange creatures from another reality. When Jesse’s estranged wife, Karina, turns up at his door, looking for his help to find their daughter – who Jesse believes he killed when she was still a child – he has no choice but to follow her on her mission. Ash has spent the intervening years roaming the Desert, but she’s ready now to make the rains fall again, and this time she’s sure she can do it without shedding any blood.

When it comes to visions of a post-apocalyptic world, Tim Lebbon is the man to beat. He has, at some point in his long and storied career, probably imagined every possible world-end scenario. Now he turns his attention to climate change and presents a very realistic vision of a future where water is scarce and where what remains of America is far from united. Into this challenging environment, Lebbon introduces Jesse, a man who, with the help of a cobbled-together “apparatus”, can make it rain. It’s the perfect match, no? Maybe a little bit too perfect, so Lebbon (never one to give his characters anything remotely resembling an easy ride) throws in a couple of curve-balls – this time in the form of deadly creatures that seem to be conjured from the same fantastic reality that the rain comes from – to keep Jesse and reader alike on our toes. So instead of being a savior and a hero, Jesse is a man keeping his head below the parapet and trying to get on with life.

Jesse’s gift – or curse – is hereditary, so he has passed it on to his daughter, Ash. Discovering that Ash has the same problems, he accidentally kills her when she is nine or ten years old – or so he believes. When his wife turns up a decade later and tells him she has seen a video of their daughter – now a grown woman – on the internet, he is as surprised as anyone. Ash, along with a girl called Cee, whom she has met on the road, is building her own apparatus. Her aim is to head west and try to put out the forest fires ravaging California and bring water back to the Desert. She’s confident this time that she can do so safely, but we all know there wouldn’t be a book if that was the case.

At its heart, The Last Storm is a story about family and loyalty. While trying to save his daughter from suffering his own fate, Jesse has inadvertently torn his family apart. Now he’s been given a second chance and it seems he’s going to grab it with both hands and prove to his wife – and himself – that he’s a good man. On the other side is Jimi, who has spent years working as a Soaker, selling water to the towns he passes through. When Jimi hears rumours of a Rainmaker, she becomes his sole focus: Jimi is out to avenge his own family, who ran afoul of a Rainmaker when Jimi was a boy.

The Last Storm starts slow and ramps up, as various pieces fall into place, accelerating towards a tense – not to mention extremely intense – climax that is guaranteed to keep you glued to the page. Lebbon has created an entirely believable – frighteningly so! – vision of an America ravaged by climate change, its people beaten but, for the most part, unbroken, and law a part of a dimly- remembered past. Into this he introduces these people with an extremely rare talent that gives them a window on a different reality, one much more frightening even than our own near-future prospects. It’s the characters that drive this story: Jesse with his need for redemption; Karina’s need to have her family back; Jimi’s need for revenge; and Ash’s need to fit in, to be a normal person and to use her gift – for that’s how she sees it – to help a slowly-dying world. Once we’ve met this crowd, we can’t help but need to know how it all works out. Be warned: Lebbon will make you work for that knowledge; he’ll put you through an emotional winger before you reach the end, and you’ll be glad you followed him on this dark and all-too-real journey.

With The Last Storm Tim Lebbon proves, once again, that he is one of Britain’s greatest genre writers. It’s a story at once gripping and horrific (on many different levels) but with a solid core of humanity that gives us hope in a world that seems to be growing bleaker by the day. This one will keep you hooked throughout – and released in perfect time to help you pass a long flight. Cerebral horror that is in a class of its own. The only question now is: why haven’t you bought your copy yet?

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