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Mr Phelan, givin' it away

Posted April 19, 2013 into Book Extract by John Birmingham

Hey kids, do you like zombies? Do you like free stuff? Well Mr James Phelan is givin' away the zombie goodness on Amazon and all the other platforms too this weekend, with the first of his Chasers series going out the door for exactly zero dollars.

I'f you'd like another free taste, I got an extract from book two below:

Automatic gunfire rang out. Bullets pinged and zapped off metal and concrete. The soldiers were shooting. Falling glass and dust sent me sprawling. They were shooting at me. I stayed behind the taxi and knelt closer to the pavement in a tight huddle, my hands over my ears. I got as close to the ground as I could. I shook. My knees and forehead on the cold wet ground. My breath fogging before my face. I tried to move lower, to crawl my way into the earth.

The shooting stopped. I took my hands off my ears, but I could still hardly hear. I closed my eyes. I’d already seen enough death and if it was coming for me now, I did not want to know in

advance. Sound began to return, a ringing in my ears soon replaced by the thrumming engines of the trucks passing close. I heard walking, the crunching of snow. Someone was coming, closing. I opened my eyes. I was pushed over, flat to the ground. I looked up and a man with a rifle was standing over me. Not at all the boy I’d imagined from afar. He had a short ragged beard, like he’d last shaved without a mirror, with a thick moustache covering his top lip. A gas mask hung under his chin, loose as if ready to pull on at a moment’s notice. He wore a bulletproof vest over a plastic camouflage jumpsuit, a white parka over his shoulders.

Black boots. Big black boots.

His rifle had a timber stock and a black steel scope, like a hunting rifle. It was steady in his hands, and pointed directly at me. I looked beyond this appendage to the man, and I realised his issue with me: He thinks I’m a Chaser. Or worse, the enemy.

I said, ‘Don’t kill me.’

His expression didn’t change. The man’s eyes, framed behind glasses, told what could have been a lie: that he didn’t have it in him to kill me. Or that was what I chose to see. Every second of hesitation gave me hope. Here was a man standing over me, a man with his own choices to make, his own unpredictable nature to contend with.

‘Please. Don’t. Don’t do it.’ I tried a smile, a friendly gesture. ‘Look, see? I’m not sick . . .’

My throat gave out with ‘sick’; a croaking, hoarse, feeble cry, all I had after so many days of soliloquy.

I showed him my empty hands, how I was unarmed, on the ground, at his mercy. Yesterday, maybe I would not have been so willing to submit, but today, now, I wanted to live, to hear what he had to say, to learn what was out there, to somehow get home.

I pleaded softly, ‘I’m not the enemy . . .’

He reached down and I inched away, shuffling back in the wet snow from both the threat of his grasp and his pointed rifle, but he took a long stride after me and dragged me to my feet. He held me up by my collar, at arm’s length, shaking me to see how I’d react. I didn’t fight him. His three colleagues stood beside the pair of all-terrain trucks with their monster-sized tyres and stared.

This man who held me turned around and shouted:

‘He’s not sick.’

‘So?’ one of his colleagues replied as he climbed back into the truck. Visible through the open back flap of the canvas-topped truck was a container the size of a small car with USAMRIID stencilled on the side of it.

‘They said they were all sick . . .’ the soldier holding me said quietly to himself, dangling me in mid-air, his gaze locked on mine.

‘Forget him!’ The shout rattled around the empty street. ‘We gotta hustle.’

‘Shoot him!’ yelled another. ‘Do the kid a favour.’ He slammed the cab door of the second truck and it motored off in the cleared wake of the first. The last soldier remained, watching closely from the other side of the street, cradling his rifle. If this one here doesn’t kill me, that one will, won’t he? I swallowed hard.

Should I run? Twist away and run? Zigzag my way around debris and hope they miss?

‘Please . . .’ I said to the one who held me. He had a name tag on his vest: STARKEY. ‘Please, Starkey, I’m not sick. You can’t kill me.’

‘Kill him!’ The order echoed across the street. Guns entitled men to do anything. They were clearly Americans, so why shoot me? Out of anger for what’s happened here?

Out of fear? No, these were outsiders. They probably knew what was going on here, they had information. I was more afraid than he could ever be. I pleaded with my eyes. I didn’t want to die, and now, more than that, I wanted to know. I wanted to talk, to ask questions, to listen and learn.

He let me go. ‘How old are you?’

‘Sixteen,’ I replied.

‘We’re moving!’

‘I’ll catch up!’ Starkey yelled across to his buddy, who shook his head and remained standing there, rifle slung in his arms like a child. ‘Where were you when this attack happened?’

‘Here.’ I was too frightened to lie.

‘Here in this street?’

‘No,’ I said. ‘A subway; I was in a subway.’

He nodded. ‘How many like you?’

‘Like me?’

‘Not sick.’

‘I don’t know.’

‘How many are you staying with?’

‘Just me.’

‘What?’

‘I’m alone,’ I replied.

I could see what he was thinking. That I was crazy. That I’d probably just crawled out of some blackened, deserted building, completely out of step with what was going on, a raving lunatic. No matter what stirrings of sympathy he may have felt, he couldn’t get away from the fact that I might just be mad and so, in my own way, just as dangerous as the infected people. Maybe I would have thought that too.

I tried to explain. ‘There’s this girl – Felicity. She might be in Central Park still. That’s where I’m heading. There might be others. I just haven’t seen anyone in person—’

‘Well, kid, I’ve seen a lot. I’ve seen good people do things that don’t make no sense,’ he said, not looking at me. ‘No sense. You understand?’

I nodded. He’d done stuff, too, probably.

‘Soon there’ll be— there’ll be people coming through here, and it’ll get out of hand – it’ll be something you don’t want to see . . .’

‘Why wouldn’t I want to see people?’

I’d dreamed of seeing people for twelve days . . .

He looked over at his comrades. Soldiers, on the road to nowhere. One of them turned, leaning from his truck window, and made a gesture to Starkey to hurry up. The vehicle had rounded the intersection up ahead.

‘We’re getting left behind!’ the other guy yelled, and finally moved on, jogging after his friend and then climbing into the second truck.

Starkey turned to leave.

‘Who are you?’ I asked him.

‘I’m nobody,’ he said as he held his rifle with both hands. ‘Just— Just keep your head down, kid. Won’t be long.’

Won’t be long? ‘What won’t be long?’

He walked away. Square shoulders filling out his plastic parka. Hope departing. Just like that. No answer. I ran after him. Fell into step beside him. His eyes scanned the street. The guy’s expression was stone. He looked down at me like I was nothing. Like I, and all this around us, was too big a problem for one man and his buddies to deal with.

‘Don’t make me stay here,’ I pleaded, falling into step beside him, heading for the departing trucks. ‘There’s thousands of those infected—’

‘They won’t last much longer,’ he said. ‘They’ll become ill and worse due to injury and exposure, lack of nutrition, all that. They can’t last long on just water . . .’

‘No, you don’t understand, there’s another kind of infected—’

‘I’ve seen, kid,’ he said, zipping his collar up tight against a horizontal snow drift. ‘There are two clear groups of the infected. Yeah? I’ve seen that. Those who are literally bloodthirsty killers, and those who are content with any liquid to survive. Either way, both groups need fluid constantly; got themselves some kind of psychogenic polydipsia, they need to drink. It’s the why that bothers me – why the two different conditions . . .’

He seemed lost in the thought, a thousand-mile stare.

‘That’s why you’re here?’

He eventually shrugged in reply.

‘Maybe the ones who chase after people were already screwed up?’ I said. ‘Murderers and criminals, stuff like that.’

‘Maybe, kid,’ he said, looking at his trucks. ‘But I doubt it.’

‘They’re driven to kill for blood,’ I said urgently. ‘I’ve seen them. They prey on others, take advantage of them. They’re getting stronger while the rest – the general population of infected – are getting weaker. The gap is growing bigger. The weak congregate, for safety maybe. They flock to where there’s easy water, they make do. The strong are in smaller packs, plenty are doing it alone, and they’re as strong as they were on day one, maybe even more so.’

‘The ones just drinking water will die out if they don’t start getting some nutrients in them,’ Starkey said. ‘Hell, we’ve already seen plenty who hyper-hydrated to the point of fatal disturbance in brain functions.’

‘The others?’

‘The others . . .’ he shrugged. ‘Well, they might just be around forever.’

17 Responses to ‘Mr Phelan, givin' it away’

Blarkon has opinions thus...

Posted April 19, 2013

I got these for Mini-Blarkon when they came out. He was 9 and devoured them.

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Bangar asserts...

Posted April 19, 2013

An excellant series, be aware it is cleverly written.

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Naut puts forth...

Posted April 19, 2013

Some of his best work .

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JP asserts...

Posted April 19, 2013

Nice one.

And FYI it's free on all digital platforms until Monday.

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Barnesm asserts...

Posted April 19, 2013

I too enjoyed these three books in the Chaser series, a welcome addition to the burgeoning sub-genre of the teen zombie apocalypse and I would recommend these as an excellent introduction for any young’ns that require schooling on the handling of the modern, 28 days later type, rage zombies.

I will go download the e-book, not because I need it but I assume it raises Mr Phelan's profile within amazon which is a worthwhile thing for me to do when it costs me nothing but a little time and bandwidth.

Unless John or Orin explain by some mechanism that I wasn’t aware that some how by doing this provides no boost the Mr Phelans profile in which case at worst I have spent a few minutes I would have otherwise wasted, at this time of night, probably downloading tentacle porn.

Barnesm mutters...

Posted April 20, 2013

SHINNY

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Barnesm mutters...

Posted April 19, 2013

and I thought Monday free reading stuff day?

oh and this is my new favourite thing http://robotshaming.tumblr.com/

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted April 20, 2013

Monday normally, yeah. But the free stuff runs out on Monday.

Barnesm swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted April 21, 2013

Good point

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Therbs ducks in to say...

Posted April 20, 2013

Yeah, a fine zed series for young 'uns, especially given the Potter froth and emo vampire twattism of recent times.

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WarDog would have you know...

Posted April 20, 2013

Mmm still $13.99 on Google Play

Barnesm would have you know...

Posted April 20, 2013

yeah, need to go to Amazon for this one

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TC mutters...

Posted April 20, 2013

Sold. ...or not sold, as the case may be. Glad you posted that bit, JB, I was planning to give it a miss regardless of being free but from that quick read I'm keen to see more.

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Bunyip mumbles...

Posted April 21, 2013

Just purchased it for the minion. She is dubious, but I'm hopefull on a peer recommendation. I mean sheesh, what would I know about genre fiction?

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pi puts forth...

Posted April 21, 2013

Gawd I love my kindle

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Trashman asserts...

Posted April 23, 2013

Not free on Amazon in the UK or US...

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