Today I want to talk about Russell James’ newest novel, Q ISLAND. I’ve heard a lot of buzz about Russell in recent months but have not had the opportunity to read his work before now. When I looked him up on Amazon, I was surprised to discover he has quite a few books out there. I was also unsure as to where I should start so I contacted Erin Al Mehairi and asked if she was familiar with him. As it turned out she’s his publicist so of course she knew about Russell. She recommended I start with BLACK MAGIC or Q ISLAND and, to my surprise, messaged me about ten minutes later to inform me that Russell was putting copies of those books in the mail. I haven’t gotten to BLACK MAGIC yet but I’m happy to report that Q ISLAND is a fantastic entry into the Russell James lexicon.
If, like me, you’re a bit burned out on the whole zombie/post apocalypse theme that has become such a prevalent sub-genre these days, don’t be put off by other things you may read describing this book as such. Q ISLAND is neither one. If I had to compare it to anything that’s been done before, it would be the film, 28 DAYS LATER, or David Moody’s HATER series. But even that isn’t accurate, just sort of a vague guideline. Q ISLAND is different from all those other things on several levels. Sure the similarities are there. Most of the people on Long Island are infected with a virus that turns them into homicidal maniacs. And small cells of survivors gather together to try to defend themselves against the infected while CDC specialists try to find a cure, but the similarities pretty much end right there.
There is so much to love in this book that it’s hard to know where to start, but one of the things I loved the most was the unique premise behind the virus. I’m not going to go into too much detail here, I’ll just tease you a bit with this inscription that Russell teased me with, “The lesson here? Don’t eat the mammoth meat.” There you go. That was enough to pique my interest but the uniqueness of this tale doesn’t end there. Another thing that really stood out here, a thing that I really LOVED–mostly because it scared the hell out of me–can be best described by this small excerpt from the book:
“The infected don’t just blindly want to kill others, they plan to kill others.”
The infected aren’t mindless killers. They’re thinking, scheming, and, in at least one case, extremely clever individuals that are driven to kill. Yet another thing I found to be outstanding and extremely unusual–if not unheard of–in a novel like this is the plausibility of the story. The source of the virus, the way the virus spreads, the fact that the government quarantines Long Island in order to contain the virus, all combine to make the story all too believable, thus that much more horrific.
Whenever I review a book I look for the things that make the work strong. And it comes as no surprise to me that, like a lot of great novels, what makes this one sing is outstanding character development and, even more so, rock solid storytelling abilities. With a cast of characters as populous as Q ISLAND it would be easy to get mired up in detail. Not so here. In Russell James’ deft hand the diverse characters separate tales are intertwined and woven together seamlessly, each one contributing to a well developed whole. His characters are fully fleshed and convincing, in some cases easy to love, in others, easy to hate. I found myself at times holding my breath, concerned over the fates of Melanie and Aiden. However, I must confess to a guilty pleasure here. I found myself more enthralled with and fully invested in the story of Jimmy Wade. James develops his villain with seemingly reckless abandon, creating a character that is both chilling and at times laugh out loud hilarious with the things he makes people see and do. There are very few stories I’ve read that have me as involved in the stories of the villains as I am with the protagonists, but in this case both of the villains stories were engaging in their telling and satisfying in their conclusions.
Q ISLAND has something for all. It’s got enough gore and survival style horror to satisfy the most hardcore zombie fanatic, while at the same time being a straight forward edge of your seat horror story with near perfect characterization, pacing and plot twists aplenty. This is my first foray into Russell James country but it’s certainly not my last. I’ll go back and read everything he’s written and I’ll take a chance on anything he writes in the future. I strongly recommend you get yourself some Russell James and see for yourself what all the buzz is about.
Q ISLAND Synopsis:
It’s an epidemic. An ancient virus is loose on Long Island, NY. Its black-veined victims become sociopathic killers, infecting others through body fluids or a post mortem release of spores. Chaos rules. The island is quarantined.
Melanie Bailey and her autistic son Aiden are trapped. Aiden is bitten, but survives. He might be the key to a cure, if she can escape what the world now calls Q Island. Further east, gang leader Jimmy Wade has also survived infection, and become telepathic with a taste for human flesh.
Wade sets his followers on a search for the immune boy who can make him a god, if only Wade can consume him. A scrappy, one-eyed nurse and a retired pipeline technician agree to help Melanie escape, but it’s a long shot that they can avoid the infected, Wade’s tightening grip and a military ordered to keep everyone on Q Island.
About Russell James:
Russell James grew up on Long Island, New York and spent too much time watching Chiller, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, and The Twilight Zone, despite his parents’ warnings. Bookshelves full of Stephen King and Edgar Allan Poe didn’t make things better. He graduated from Cornell University and the University of Central Florida.
After a tour flying helicopters with the U.S. Army, he now spins twisted tales best read in daylight. He has written the paranormal thrillers Dark Inspiration, Sacrifice, Black Magic, Dark Vengeance, and Dreamwalker. He has several horror short story collections, including Tales from Beyond and Deeper into Darkness, as well as some science fiction collections. Now, Q Island, released July 7, 2015 and he’s already under contract for his next book for 2016.
His wife reads what he writes, rolls her eyes, and says “There is something seriously wrong with you.” He and his wife share their home in sunny Florida with two cats.
To find out more about Russell R. James, please visit his Website or follow him on Facebook! Join him on Twitter, @RRJames14. Also, feel free to drop him at a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.