Book review: Darkest Day by Christopher Fowler

a fowl 2Darkest Day by Christopher Fowler

[From Critical Wave #31, 1993. Both the Little, Brown hardback and subsequent paperback are currently available via Amazon.]


Curiously, the impact of Fowler’s novels operates in inverse proportion to the weight of genre elements he introduces into the plot. Bizarre as the hidden society of Roofworld might have been, there are many less plausible ‘mainstream’ thrillers; Rune‘s updating of M R James’ classic short story ‘Casting the Runes’ (or, perhaps more accurately, Night of the Demon, Jacques Tourneur’s 1957 adaptation), on the other hand, jettisons its predecessor’s atmosphere in favour of dodgy pseudoscience.

Darkest Day, I’m pleased to report, returns to familiar ground, with Fowler regulars John May and Arthur Bryant (now in charge of a prototype police squad dedicated to investigating the oddball and uncanny) unraveling a complex web of colonial intrigue, family dishonour and voodoo slavery in the heart of London. At nearly 600 pages, the action is a mite stretched, but it’s a sin soon forgiven when balanced against Fowler’s ear for characterisation and his favourite city’s secret history.

Zombie Heat-Death

The Legions of Entropy

[Published in Procrastinations #6, 2008]

T-shirt - zombies small

What exactly is the appeal of the zombie in contemporary cinema? Be they the brain-famished cannibals of Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, the shambling lost souls of Tourneur’s I Walked With a Zombie or the crazed killing machines of Boyle’s 28 Days Later, there seems no end to the march of the resurrected across our cinema screens.


After all, it’s not as if they’re embued with either the tragic alienation of the Frankenstein monster (English literature’s first and greatest reanimated cadaver) or the shadowy eroticism of the vampire. Even the mummified adulterer Kharis solicits more sympathy from audiences than these personality-depleted icons of the horror genre.

But that, of course, lies at the unbeating heart of the zombie’s mystique. Almost alone in our shared mythology, these creatures are totally devoid of self; they are without motivation or masterplan, the senseless personification of our own mortality. As fast as you run, whatever obstacles you place in their path, you can escape neither their frantic grasp nor the inevitability of your own demise.


The attraction for film-makers is rather more obvious. The restless undead offer a tabula rasa upon which virtually any theme can be explored, from a satirical broadside against American consumerism (Dawn of the Dead) to quasi-Marxist condemnation of corporate genocide (Zombie Creeping Flesh).

In the hands of a gifted writer-director, they can illuminate the darkest recesses of the human mechanism and the social shells we build around ourselves; in a hack’s, satiate our animalistic thirst for cheap thrills.


Zombies are the footsoldiers of chaos, the walking embodiment of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. With time, their contagion will spread throughout the globe, whereupon the twisted hunger which drives the corpse army will prove its own undoing. Only then will the dead rest again, and forever.

At the close, all is entropy.

Illustration by the author