Grey Fox by J.L. Bourne

Day by Day Armageddon: Grey Fox [Kindle Edition]
by J.L. Bourne
42 Pages
Permuted Press (October 8, 2013)
Genre: Sci-Fi Fantasy, Post-Apocalyptic

Review by Patrick J. Dalton

“Time is a very fluid thing, no one really has a grasp on it other than maybe how to measure it. As the maestro of the Day by Day Armageddon Universe, I have the latitude of being in control of that time. I can adjust the slider either direction, moving the timeline back and forth along the continuum. This is one of the perks of creation, the benefit in constructing something (albeit small) from nothing. Sort of makes you wonder what the maestro of the universe is up to, no? You have again stumbled upon a ticket with service through the apocalyptic wastes, but this time the train is a little bit older, a little more beat up, and maybe a little wiser. Keep your doors locked.”

If you’ve yet to read the first three offerings in Bourne’s Day By Day Armageddon series, I’m sure to drop a spoiler or two, so there’s your warning shot. On the flipside, if you aren’t at all familiar with J.L. Bourne, then by all means take a walk with me here.

No, Bourne hasn’t injected a Tardis into the DBDA universe and Kil isn’t charging after hordes of the undead with a sonic screwdriver. Instead, Grey Fox takes us nearly 30 years into the future (sans callbox) where we find our narrator in the Florida Keys, or better known as the southern border of the “inclusion zone” aboard his sailboat, the Solitude.

25 years prior to this, the remnants of the US government detonated a “classified Top Secret” warhead via a borrowed Chinese delivery missile over central and southern Florida “deactivating” every undead creature in the blast radius within an hour. The airburst created a virtual wall of nanomachines that, for reasons unknown, continually deactivates the infected, providing a safe haven for the living.

It is here that Kilroy is equipping the Solitude for one last solo run into the badlands, the “exclusion zone”, to scavenge for critical supplies. “This is my last run. I must admit that I’ve said that before, but I really don’t think I’ll say it again.” Famous last words?

And so begins Kil’s suicide mission up the Florida coastline to Mississippi, but not without Bourne’s signature technical description of all onboard navigation technology, functions, and purposes. I’d gamble that this is a man who has never once consulted a service tech about anything but their lifespan.

After a brief, yet haunting encounter with another vessel on the Gulf, Kil recalls a previous mission into the exclusion zone (which is anywhere beyond northern Florida) bringing the reader up to speed on the necessities he now carries with him. The Geiger counter for instance, an interesting tie-in, harkening to the previous installment’s hellish encounter in the remnants of New Orleans.

Coming ashore and reaching his destination, a hospital in Mississippi, we see the disciplined, refined warrior skilled in the art of undead disposal getting down to the business at hand. It’s brief, but concise. Shortly after is where we see what the point of this mission was and why Kil trusted no one but himself to execute it.

Whether or not he makes it out of this one was definitely a question that rattled around this head, but what was made quite evident was “time” itself. The toll 30 years living in the DBDA world has taken on this man, time being of the essence of this “last” mission, and the item he was willing to sacrifice himself to retrieve. As poetic as it gets nearly 30 years after it all goes to hell.

Bourne returns to his powerful first-person journaling approach which we haven’t seen full on since “Beyond Exile”. I could’ve read Grey Fox, bypassing the first three altogether and most likely drawn the same conclusion. Perhaps it’s tamer than the other DBDA titles, but this one, for me, is about the character. “I’m going to take a piss off the fantail and then go inland to shoot some zombies. How’s that for a Facebook update?” See? Poetry.

Although it lacks page after page of mangled carcasses hurtling through cordite scented air and meat-strewn deathscapes, Grey Fox is a great short story by one of the best writers in the genre.

About the Reviewer:

Patrick J. Dalton is an Irish-born writer/ illustrator now living in the 5 Boros with his wife & 4yo son. Former musician/ lyricist, current human being, he is currently finishing his debut novel to be self-published in 2014.