a discussion of the indie and self-published books that inspire, engage and challenge me
There is a great line in eden Hudson's How to Kill Yourself in a Small Town - one that (in my opinion) perfectly sums up the anti-hero protagonist of the story, Tough. It's a line that comes from the POV of another character, which has a certain poignancy to it once you get to know the characters and the wounds which scratch and tear at their souls.
"Tough", I said. "Weird name".
"I just mean, Tough's one of those names like Gorgeous is for girls. One you can never live up to".
I love Tough. He is this incredibly flawed anti-hero who is constantly struggling with... well, everything. His hometown of Halo has been his own personal Hell for years and it seems that he will never take a trick. But as flawed as he is, he is above all a fighter. He wants to survive, he doesn't want to give up (even when he thinks he does).
Tough is just one of many human and non-people (NP) characters (and POVs) that inhabit Halo, the fictional redneck US town where Hudson's Redneck Apocalypse Series takes place. The story of HKYST, the first in the series, is succinctly summarised by its author:
The holy champion chosen to save the world is enslaved to a beautiful, sadistic fallen angel and losing the battle for his sanity. The guy chosen to save the holy champion is his binge-drinking redneck brother. So, basically, the world is screwed.
Hudson is an intelligent writer with great flair for words and deep insight into her main characters. Their interactions with the world of Halo, their desperate situations and each other are told in distinct voices that cut to the inner conflict that is central to their identities.
The themes of self-preservation, family loyalty and unfulfilled/thwarted desire are perfectly explored against the backdrop of a sweltering summer that offers no relief. Despite the heaviness of the themes and the depth of characters, the writing itself is light and twinged with an irony and dry wit that derives from the youth and 'f*ck you' attitude of the characters.
A great character-driven story where the high stakes game of saving the world takes a back seat to the immediate desires, emotions, reactions and doubts of the beautifully-flawed, engaging and interesting anti-heroes of Halo.