The End by Kayleigh Dobbs

January 26, 2024

After a much-needed* sabbatical from The Eloquent Page, I’m back to it with a renewed sense of purpose. 2024 promises a whole host of great new genre fiction and I intend to point you in the direction of some of the best.

I’m easing back into reviewing this year with a short story collection for Black Shuck Books called The End by Kayleigh Dobbs. It’s a small but perfectly formed anthology picking apart my very favourite sub-genre – apocalyptic fiction.

Let’s dive right in…

The Claim They Stake – Since Billy stopped taking his medication, events have taken a worrying turn. Billy is most concerned about his elderly neighbour. Mr Tiley has gone from being a kindly old gentleman to a lizard creature wearing a human suit.  Billy’s sense of paranoia feels palpable. The growing sense of his panic and desperation is infectious. I’m sure if I was in the same position I’d be bowing down to our reptilian overlords in a matter of minutes.  If, like me, you’re old enough to remember shows like V or sports pundit turned raging conspiracy theorist, David Icke, this story will be a real treat.

I have to make an apology to the author at this point. I tend to latch on to a specific aspect of a story and when it has wormed its way into my brain it gets stuck in there. I referred to this story as Invasion of the Billy Snatchers one time and I can’t get that out of my head. There’s a title for you if you decide to expand this into a full-length novel** 😀

Just Like Baking – Abbie is thrilled at the prospect of joining her older sister’s coven but everyone has to learn, even witches, that when it comes to summoning demons even a minor error can be catastrophic. Dobbs has a keen eye when it comes to the darkly comic. There are hints of Good Omens and other Pratchett-based witchery dancing around the edges of this cheeky little tale. Agnes Nutter would be proud.

Catch Fire – Families can be the worst, especially when it comes to dinner parties. Matt and Emily have been invited to a soiree held by Emily’s sister Jen. I dont think I’m spoiling anything by confirming from Emily and Matt’s perspective this quickly becomes the worst dinner party ever.

Dead – The Zompoc from the perspective of someone recently deceased. Grace’s exasperation at being helpless to stop events manages to be both tragic and grimly humorous. Some moments have a distinctly Shaun of the Dead-esque vibe. I’ll admit I have a soft spot when it comes to the shambling dead. I think this was my favourite story in the collection. I always like it when an author brings something new to the party. Just imagine, a spirit watching their own body munching on victims, how delightful.

Omega – Maddie, Billy’s girlfriend from The Claim They Stake, finds herself in the midst of her own apocalypse. She is becoming less and less enamoured with the forthcoming prospect of The Rapture. Pastor Bob made it sound heavenly but Maddie is starting to think the good pastor might not be quite as righteous as he claims to be.

The End – The final entry into the collection is the most intriguing one. An unknown character mocks humanity for our crude understanding of how we perceive the end. There is a delicious sense of ambiguity about who it could be. I have some thoughts on the matter, but love the idea that different readers are going to take away their own interpretation of this diatribe. It’s the perfect conclusion to a great little collection.

I enjoyed The End. Kayleigh Dobbs has a keen eye for characterisation, the majority of the protagonists are just everyday people swept up in cataclysmic events. I suspect I would behave in much the same manner in most cases. The End isn’t all about “and they all lived happily ever after” quite the reverse. If you are looking for some short, sharp end of the world type action then this is the book for you.

The End is published by Black Schuck Books and is available now.

Normally at this point in proceedings, I’d make a musical recommendation to accompany this collection. In this case, there was no thought required on my part at all. In the book’s acknowledgements, the author mentions taking inspiration from a band called Periphery. Who am I to argue with a recommendation direct from the writer? I can heartily agree that the albums Juggernaut: Alpha and Juggernaut: Omega are just a little bit brilliant.

*2023 had some ups and downs, let’s just leave it at that shall we?

**A novel that I would happily read.

The End

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