Reviewed by Phil Ambler
Joe and Me is a tale about a family. A mother, a stay at home father and little Joe, a loveable eight year old lad just like most other eight year old lads. Except Joe’s mother is a genetic scientist working on an airborne vaccine delivery system to save the world.
David Moody crafts an incredibly touching story about family relationships against the backdrop of potential world devastation. Whilst coming from a horror stable, this fifty odd page chapbook could just as well be classed as science fiction or bleak drama. Well realised characters bring life to the piece and really suck you into the story on an emotional level which is not what I was expecting on reading the cover blurb.
Despite the pre-apocalyptic nature of the tale and the uniqueness of the family unit, it is a tale which many families can relate to as the constant pressures of work impact on their ability to spend time together.
The star of the piece is the father, Simon, who is our narrator and window into this world of secret scientific laboratories where the military threaten to turn his wife Gill’s work into a biological weapon. He is the rock the family is built upon, supporting Gill’s efforts to save the world whilst reminding her to be the mother that Joe needs.
The story doesn’t necessarily bring anything new to the genre but the writing and characters are strong enough that you’re happy to be on familiar territory. As the book brings itself to a conclusion, with the fate of the world potentially in balance, I defy you not to feel a twinge of sadness as events unfold. The unenviable decision which Simon is forced to make towards the end is one I wouldn’t wish on anyone.
My one gripe with Joe and Me, and it is a minor one, is the closing sentence. We are given the briefest of explanations of the ending whereas I would have much preferred a level of ambiguity to let my imagination wander. Overall though, this is a pretty faultless piece of writing as far as this reader is concerned.
I would highly recommend people to go out and pick up a copy which is currently being released as a limited edition of 500 signed copies. As mentioned, this is a short read at under sixty pages, but that feels about right for this tale, which means you can easily finish it in one sitting; preferably in the comfort of your own home with friends and family around.
Joe and Me is one of three limited edition chapbooks being released by This is Horror. The others should be corkers if this is anything to go by.