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Thursday 20 November 2014

‘Extinction’ by J T Brannan

Published by Headline,
27 February 2014.
ISBN: 978-1-4722-0680-0

A religious statue moves, a tsunami destroys an entire island population, birds attack and bring down aeroplanes and pampered pet dogs simultaneously turn on and kill their owners. With no official explanation and people in fear all over the world, apocalyptic cult leaders are claiming more followers by the day, convincing them that the end times are near.

When investigative journalist Alyssa Durham gets a call to meet her old friend Karl Janklow, who works as a systems engineer for the government, she is intrigued to learn he believes that these phenomena are not natural events. But before he can say more, he is murdered in front of her.

As civilised society crumbles around her, Alyssa manages to avoid the rioters and looters and join with Karl's colleague Jack Murray in a bid to discover the truth. Hunted by Jack and Karl's former boss, the unrelenting Colonel Anderson, they must remain hidden as they strive to tell the world what is going on. As the end of the world seems to draw ever closer, old alliances go out the window as friends and enemies gather for one last desperate fight.

The author is single minded in his pursuit of the story: neither personal relationships nor emotions are allowed to get in the way of this well-paced thriller. There are some themes that shine through however: feminism is one of them. Gratifyingly and unusually, Alyssa is both physically and mentally the strongest character, outwitting her nemesis time and again and pulling the good looking Jack along with her, enjoying him much as Jack Reacher enjoys the attentions of the women he meets on his escapades, although she does ultimately admit her feelings for him.

Loss is another significant theme - of people (as well as her friend Karl, Alyssa had tragically lost her husband and daughter, yet seems only to be stronger for it); and, more interestingly, loss of authority and the status quo, as the author explores how people would react if they thought the end of the world was coming and traditional authority figures were impotent to prevent it; it makes for a damning reflection on man's lack of humanity to his fellow man, as, in fact, does the premise of the whole novel.

Interestingly, the final theme, technology, is presented as both necessary and evil: although it helps the heroes in their quest, it is also at the root of the successes of the anti-heroes as well, allowing them unprecedented powers to track and attack Alyssa and Jack.

Overall, while this is a thoroughly thrilling, action packed adventure that takes the reader by the hand and blasts through seemingly inescapable situations with ease, it is also at its core, a thought-provoking cautionary tale about the nature of power, humanity and authority.
Reviewer: Joanna Leigh

JT Brannan trained as a British Army officer at Sandhurst, before deciding to pursue a writing career. A former national karate champion, he now teaches karate, MMA, and his own system of reality-based self-defence. He lives near Harrogate with his wife and two young children. Extinction is his second novel.

Joanna Leigh studied French and German at university. She works in the aerospace industry and is a chartered marketer in the UK. She describes herself as a voracious reader, enjoying genres as varied as crime thrillers, historical fiction and autobiographies. Joanna lives in London. She is the daughter of crime thriller writer Leigh Russell.

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