12 September 2008



Like The Penal Colony, this is a thriller set in the near future.

It is twelve years on from a global plague. John Suter believes himself the sole survivor. He has gradually come to terms with his fate and has settled into a steady and self-reliant daily routine.

One morning he finds a mutilated body in the river near his house. In his terror, Suter knows he has no choice but to investigate.

What he discovers upstream stretches his endurance to its limits and forces him to reassess not only his own humanity, but also his place within the human family he had once believed extinct.

Earliest sketches: autumn 1992
Synopsis: October 1999
Final draft for electronic publication: 29 September 2008
Extent: 83,825 words

Rated: 4 out of 5 stars

When this novel first came to my attention, I was excited, since Richard Herley had already authored one of my favorite books, the outstanding The Penal Colony. Then, when I read the blurb and realized what Refuge was about, I admit my excitement faltered a bit. I felt the post-apocalyptic, I'm-the-last-man-on-Earth survival milieu had already been pretty well strip-mined in a hundred works ranging from I Am Legend to Children of Men to The Stand, and I thought it would be difficult for an author to come along in 2008 and give the genre a treatment that was anything other than derivative and tired.

Happily, I was wrong. Herley immediately puts his stamp on the proceedings, much as he does in his other works, with concise, economical detail, great pacing, and a level of research and thinking-through that leaves the reader wondering why other novelists didn’t think of these things. His chops as a writer are simply amazing - several wide cuts above the average writer of popular fiction. Several themes from Herley’s other works are revisited here, most notably the villains’ Christian/Satanic delusions and the protagonists’ struggles for survival in a wild, uncaring natural world, but it’s a very different novel to The Penal Colony.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough. If you like brainy, propulsive thrillers with characters who are complex, flawed and not always easy to love, this is the book for you.