Review: Killable Hours, by Clay Blakehills (After the World, #1)


Black House Comics

(Review first published in ASIM 46)

Black House Comics is an Australian small press which has lately taken upon itself the civic duty of forewarning the general populace of the dangers posed by the impending Zombie Apocalypse. Its series of ‘After the World’ inspirational tracts take the form of fictionalised novellas, penned by various authors, purporting to describe various all-too-probable scenarios in the inevitable zombie/human conflict.

Killable Hours, the first of the novella series, appropriately presents the initial zombie uprising, in a sensitive and delicately-nuanced comedy of manners played out within the tranquil, skyscrapered setting of a prestigious Melbourne law firm. Actually, scrap that last clause – if you’re seeking ‘sensitive’, hankering after delicacy of nuance, or pining for a bit of ‘tranquil’, you’d be best advised to look elsewhere, because the kind of gore-spattered, dismembered, festering bloodfest into which Killable Hours rapidly degenerates is likely to give you quite the dizzy spell. If it doesn’t rip your head off instead.

The storyline in Killable Hours revolves around the quest for survival by Terry, a seasonal legal clerk who’s been with the firm of Walters Kendall for three short weeks when a mystery virus triggers an orgy of bloodletting in a meeting to which the entire firm has been summoned. An attack by police helicopters, seeking to disinfect the bloodthirsty, slavering pack of lawyers (and for once, those adjectives aren’t teamed with ‘lawyer’ in a merely metaphoric sense), instead results in a sudden proliferation in the supply of fresh meat, and a consequent burgeoning in the zombie population. It’s all Terry can do to escape from the room with his life intact – none of the other occupants are so lucky. From there, Terry, along with the few other survivors he meets in the firm’s other offices, must find a way down 45 storeys of probable zombie hordes, to reach the very dubious sanctuary of the city’s streets. Limbs will be broken. Skulls will be stoved in. Necks will be severed. Bowels will be voided, snagged, and ripped bodily from abdomens. And you though Law was a cutthroat business before the zombie uprising …

I have to say, I found some of the violence in Killable Hours to be rather cartoonish, and not always convincing. Gratuitous? Heck, yeah! That’s the main point. It’s not a book which over-engages the intellect, and here I think it suffers slightly in comparison with its partner-in-crime, Jason Fischer’s Gravesend, the second (and thus far, only other) After-the-World novella. Where Fischer’s tale (see ASIM 44 for a review) genuinely provokes and challenges, with morality, depth, and pathos, Blakehills’ story is content to confront, and to entertain. But ultimately, Killable Hours is truer to its pulp credentials, giving us a gore-fest and a tense and propulsive story, packed with desperation, claustrophobia, and paranoia. Is that enough? It may well be. If, indeed, it sounds like your cup of blood, it probably is. But do yourself a favour: don’t restrict yourself to Killable Hours. Get Gravesend as well. While you still can.

Because, after all, you can never be too well prepared, when the dead start to walk.


%d bloggers like this: