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Death is a Welcome Guest by Louise Welsh
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Death is a Welcome Guest

by Louise Welsh

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I persisted with this book, but it read like a meandering mess.
I had read the previous story in the triptych of novels set in the UK after a worldwide pandemic, known as the Sweats, decimates the human population, and although it had been only moderately entertaining, I had enjoyed the author's style and the presentation of post-pandemic London. I was therefore looking forward to the opportunity for Welsh to up her game and create a better story.
The protagonist, Magnus McFall, is a mostly believable character and the novel starts tolerably well with an incident on the London tube (underground), a post performance party and McFall being mistakenly imprisoned after trying to assist a drunk. The Sweats happen whilst McFall is in prison awaiting a trial that never arrives due to the chaos caused by the pandemic, with McFall escaping prison as a lucky survivor.
unfortunately for me this is when the story starts to meander, just not developing, and it feels as if the author tried to leave the character to make his own story and then got bogged down in the attempt at a commune.
Welsh then finishes her story very quickly, with an open ending, as if she was up against a deadline.
A disappointing read, as there is some good writing, a mainly plausible central character and an interesting idea.

Although a much older book, I would suggest that if you would like to read something on this theme, you try The Death of Grass by John Christopher. ( )
  CarltonC | Apr 28, 2016 |
One of my favourite books from earlier in the year was Louise Welsh's 'A Lovely Way to Burn', the first volume of her planned 'Plague Times' trilogy. This second instalment is more of a companion volume than a sequel, featuring on a new set of characters and giving a different and intriguing perspective of the descent into dystopia.

The principal character is Magnus McFall, a stand up comedian from the Orkneys who is on the cusp of breaking through into the big time. As the novel opens he is travelling by Tube to London's O2 stadium where he will be performing as warm up artist for a more established star. The news is already full of stories about a strange disease which is starting to take hold across the capital. Known as 'The Sweats', it manifests itself as a form of severe flu, and has been spreading through the city and beyond with great pace. McFall notices some likely sufferers on the Tube, and feels vague alarm at the prospect of being stuck underground with so many other people.

The show passes off fairly well but, following a bizarre yet utterly plausible series of circumstances, McFall finds himself out on the streets of Greenwich in the early hours of the morning, very drunk and without any money or his mobile phone. Drifting in and out of consciousness he suddenly finds himself witness to an attempted rape of a young woman. He intervenes and beats up the attacker, butis discovered with the unconscious and wounded woman and is mistaken for the attacker himself.

He is arrested, remanded and consigned to the 'vulnerable prisoners' wing of Pentonville Prison where he is paired with the mysterious and imposing Jeb Soames. Meanwhile the Sweats continue to wreak havoc, including within the prison where inmates and guards fall prey to its relentless grasp. Magnus and Jeb decide they have to escape, though that will be more easily said than done.

Welsh captures the horror of being trapped by the invisible but omnipresent disease excellently, as she did in the previous book. The disintegration of society is complete and precipitate, and Magnus and Jeb experience a succession of horrors as they venture abroad. She also manages to blend a variety of different literary genres - a prison story, a murder mystery and the overarching theme of the breakdown of society and the frail threads by which our humanity is retained.

I didn't feel quite as strongly bound to this novel as I did to 'A Lovely Way to Burn', but it was still very gripping and entertaining. ( )
  Eyejaybee | Aug 9, 2015 |
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Epigraph
...darkness shades me,
on thy bosomlet me rest, More I would, but death invades me; Death is now a welcome guest. 'Dido's Lament from Dido and Aeneas, libretto, Nahum Tate
On the second day The radios failed; we turned the knobs; no answer. On the third day a warship passed us, heading north, Dead bodies piled on the deck. On the sixth day A plane plunged over us into the sea. Thereafter Nothing. The radios dumb... 'The Horses', Edwin Muir
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For my nephew Zack Welsh
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Prologue. The Orleander left Southampton on 24 May under the command of Captain Richard Greene for a fourteen-day Mediterranean cruise.
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Magnus McFall was a comic on the brink of his big break when the world came to an end. Now, he is a man on the run and there is nothing to laugh about. Thrown into unwilling partnership with an escaped convict, Magnus flees the desolation of London to make the long journey north, clinging to his hope that the sickness has not reached his family on their remote Scottish island. He finds himself in a landscape fraught with danger, fighting for his place in a world ruled by men, like his fellow traveller Jeb - practical men who do not let pain or emotions interfere with getting the job done. This is a world with its own justice, and new rules. Where people, guns and food are currency. Where survival is everything. Death is a Welcome Guest defies you to put it down, and leaves you with questions that linger in the mind long after you read the last page.… (more)

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