Review Details

Review type: Book

Title: Among the Living

Author: Tim Lebbon

Publisher: Titan Books

Among the Living

Reviewed by: Ian Green

Among the Living by Tim Lebbon

Ian Green

Among the Living is a fast-paced thriller set in the Deep North. Climate change is altering our natural landscapes, and here, Lebbon explores some of the bogeymen that might emerge from the distant past as the permafrost melts and the world we know changes forever.

Dean and his crew are exploitative explorers, delving into newly exposed caves previously inaccessible due to ice to search for minerals to mine. But when they find ancient cave art in the remote Hawkshead Island, he flags their latest exploration to his old friend Bethan, whose direct and somewhat violent activism led to a schism between them. Bethan’s team arrives swiftly, but there is already chaos- a long-slumbering disease that can take over a body and force it to act intelligently as a vector!

From there, the novel becomes an action-packed amalgam of The Thing and The Last of Us as Dean and Bethan race to stop the infection from spreading. There are some enjoyable backing characters, such as lifelong activist Goya and the curmudgeonly Frank, and the pace is never less than bracing. The novel flirts with the limitations of direct action as a protest but then gives the protagonists a much clearer cause to fight for where there is increasingly no excuse for inaction or pause (which somewhat undercuts any deeper thematic expiration). A focus on Dean and Bethan’s (refreshingly platonic) relationship is the emotional core of the piece, but unfortunately, there are only a few moments of shared history delved into. Lebbon offers tantalizing glimpses of elements such as the illegal mining industry, the funding of activist groups, and, indeed, the potentially utterly strange origins of the disease Dean and Bethan fight- but the focus here is on action and forward momentum, and there is little time to dwell. Among the Living is reminiscent of Crichton having his most fun. Lebbon has taken a terrifying concept and given us a pacey and gory thriller that is a joy to escape into.

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