The Change 1-3

The Change is a series of loosely connected horror novellas that were written by Guy Adams and all published in 2017. They take place in a post-apocalyptic world where reality has been warped and impossible monsters now roam the streets. The series currently consists of six instalments: London: Orbital, New York: The Queen of Coney Island, Paris: A City of Fools, London: Dirt, New York: The River That Runs Both Ways and Tokyo: Noriko’s Story. For the purpose of this review, I’ll be looking at the first three novellas only.

Nobody who witnessed The Change lived to tell the tale. Those who saw the strange creatures appear in the sky died instantly, and anyone who watched the footage of the event on YouTube was sent irreparably insane. The only thing that the survivors know is that The Change affected everything. Reality was rocked by the event and the streets became filled with danger. In this new world, anything is possible and even the most innocent looking creature could hunger for human flesh.

In England, a young man awakes on the motorway to find that he has no memory of what had come before. His only clue is a journal written by a man named Howard. Assuming that this belongs to him, Howard began to travel towards London in the hope of finding out who he is. On the way, he meets a teenager named Hubcap and his biker friends at the Kingdom of Welcome Break. However, they soon find themselves hunted by a terrible monster made of flesh and metal.

In New York, Grace desperately tries to find passage to Riker’s Island in search of her missing brother. With the assistance of an insane priest who believes himself to be God, she seeks out the Queen of Coney Island – the only person with the power to grant her request. However, the Queen does not offer her services for free. In return, she wants to Grace to perform a simple task for her. However, in this strange new world, even the simplest of things can have deadly consequences.

In Paris, Loïc is forced to leave his subterranean home when his friend Adrien is kidnapped by the Impressionists – odd creatures made out of paint. He follows them to their lair in the Louvre where he discovers that they are subjecting people to a fate worse than death. As he tries to get Adrien to safety, he learns that the surface world is more dangerous than he could imagine. It’s not long until he finds himself fighting for his life at the foot of a sentient guillotine and desperately trying to escape from the revived Grand Guignol…

Before I begin, I should probably note that these novellas are pretty grisly in places. London: Orbital is especially gruesome, featuring some over-the-top scenes of dismemberment that are on par with Darren Shan’s Demonata. If you’re in any way squeamish, this is certainly a series that you should avoid.

As you’re probably aware, I have a real soft spot for the work of H.P. Lovecraft. For me, this represents horror at its most frightening. While I don’t find vampires or zombies especially scary, I do think that there is true terror to be found in the unknown. The “beings” in The Change certainly fall into this category. These are creatures that the human mind can never hope to comprehend. They appeared without warning and there is no perceivable way that they can be fought off. For me, this is horror. It causes the reader to comprehend a situation where they would be truly helpless, and that is terrifying.

The setting of The Change also allowed Adams to be incredibly creative. While we don’t really see much of this in London: Orbital, the other two novels are outstandingly creative. It’s here that we truly see what the world had become. While it is filled with danger (we learn that no one can survive more than a few minutes in Queens, though it’s never explained why), it’s also filled with wonder. It’s a world where anything is possible – animal hybrids walk the streets, fish can fly and Christine Daae performs at the Paris Opera House. Adams’s imagination really is fantastic, creating some wonderful images and making the novellas highly unpredictable.

However, beneath the flashy world-building, The Change is unfortunately a bit of a mixed bag. As each instalment is just a short novella, there really isn’t any depth to the stories. They are clearly geared towards readers who like their horror to be fast paced and grotesque, as there isn’t really any time spent building tension or developing concepts. While it’s not surprising that we don’t learn anything about The Change (after all, no one lived to tell the tale), the episodic nature of the stories also prevented any plot from actually developing.

For me, this is the biggest problem with the series. Only Paris: A City of Fools actually functioned as a complete story in its own right. Both London: Orbital and New York: The Queen of Coney Island were purely set up. Both of these felt as though they were half stories, as they ended by pointing the characters in the right direction to continue their missions. Howard and Hubcap set off towards London in search of Howard’s past, and Grace and God set sail for Riker’s Island. Not only are these horrible cliffhangers, but they’re not even resolved by the next book. The next London instalment of the series is book four, which is a long time for readers to wait to find out where Howard’s adventure takes him next.

The stories also vary in tone quite wildly. I personally enjoyed New York: The Queen of Coney Island the best, as it is a bit funnier than the other two stories. While there are still a couple of gory moments, it is a lot less violent than the others and makes up for this with some very surreal and memorable imagery. Comparatively, London: Orbital was probably the most straightforward story as it purely focused on a group of bikers facing off against a hideous monster. Paris: A City of Fools contained some creative ideas (I liked the Impressionists in particular), but I was left disappointed by the climax in the Grand Guignol, which had a bit of the feel of a low-budget torture porn film.

In terms of characterisation, the novels are unsurprisingly shallow. While Grace in New York: The Queen of Coney Island was probably the most complex of the protagonists, her backstory is still entirely told through exposition. As each of the stories is short and fast paced, they lack the slow moments necessary for character growth. Unfortunately, this meant that I found that I didn’t really care if they lived or died. The only character that was really memorable was God, and he was more of a running joke than a true protagonist.

All in all, the first three novellas of The Change series were enjoyable enough, but they were certainly brain-in-a-box reads. If you’re in the mood for some fast-paced horror, I’d say to check them out. However, don’t expect anything by way of plot or character development.

London: Orbital can be purchased as a Paperback and eBook on Amazon.co.uk

New York: The Queen of Coney Island can be purchased as a Paperback and eBook on Amazon.co.uk

Paris: A City of Fools can be purchased as a Paperback and eBook on Amazon.co.uk

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