The Fearing: Book Two - Water & Wind by John F.D. Taff
Publisher: Grey Matter Press | Release Date: August 20, 2019 | Pages: 130
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Grey Matter Press’s serialization of John F.D. Taff’s The Fearing continues with Water & Wind! Since The Fearing was originally envisioned as a single unbroken novel, reading Book One, Fire & Rain is an absolute must. Book Two picks up hot on the heels of the prior installment’s cliffhanger ending, inching the plot forward and starting to move the various players closer to their eventual destiny.
With the plot of The Fearing revolving around the violent manifestations of people’s worst nightmares and phobias, it’s hard to deny this book’s relevancy in 2019 America. While this is a story that Taff has been quite open about having taken him years to write, it’s hellaciously timely given the current state of the US. Granted, The Fearing itself is not overtly political and Taff certainly isn’t a preachy sort of author, but it’s release has most certainly come about at an interesting time in the world. I read this installment in the wake of two mass shootings in El Paso, TX and Dayton, OH this past weekend, watching as our feckless, spineless politicians fall all over themselves (in the case of Moscow Mitch, quite literally, it seems) in order to avoid making the harsh and necessary decisions required to keep the country safe. We’ve all watched the rise of white supremacy in this country under the rule of Donald Trump and seen the real-life horror stories of concentration camps being erected along the border, camps where children are torn away from their families and left to die in overcrowded and filthy cages. Ever since the 2016 election, it’s been one unstoppable nightmare after another, and we’ve been helpless to watch as our worst fears come true and the violent impulses of insane racists are fervently stoked by the Commander in Chief on a daily basis.
Given the present state of the world in which this book exists, it is absolutely impossible to deny the relevancy and weight Taff’s work carries in the here and now. The Fearing is a welcome escape, if only to remind us that it could be oh so much worse. There are still plenty of other awful catastrophes that could befall us as the inner demons of those around us are unleashed, so let’s be thankful that although America is in a race to the bottom to see how bad we can make things, it’s thankfully not quite yet as painful and apocalyptic as Taff’s envisioned it!
Using the concept of fear made manifest is one hell of a way to approach the end of the world, and it makes for, hands-down, the most original work of apocalyptic fiction I can recall. We’ve already been blessed with another wonderful apocalyptic epic this summer with Chuck Wendig’s Wanderers, and as much as I loved that book, I do believe it’s Taff’s serial that will ultimately have the most impact and timelessness. Wanderers is most certainly a book borne out of its time, but it also has a certain time capsule feel to it as Wendig confronts the social fears of 2019 and the Trump administration specifically. The Fearing approaches the apocalypse in a radically different way, and while it feels like the sort of book custom made for the times we are in, I also think it’s something you could read again in ten or twenty years (if we’re still around) and still have the same impact. I can’t imagine this book losing any of the more visceral gut punches it delivers as time moves on and society, hopefully, progresses. We might be able to eventually heal from the societal issues Wendig writes about in Wanderers, but there’s no escaping the fears Taff delivers.
Technology changes and grows, whether it’s artificial intelligence or weapons of mass destruction, but humanity’s fears are immortal. We’ll always be afraid of global Armageddon, be it nuclear war or meteor strikes or Biblical Rapture, terrorist attacks and Klan rallies, as well as more immediate and personal phobias like snakes and bugs. In fact, one of the smartest things Taff has done over the course of these two installments is progressing the manifestation of humanity’s fears from the big social worries and national anxieties to the more personal and intimate horrors. We get plenty of spectacle along the way, but by making these fears so immediate and perilous, as well as grounded in our character’s unique fears, we get a more personal view of these people and become closer to them as a result. And then, by the time you get to this installment’s cliffhanger, and realize that Book Three isn’t due out until October, you’ll know exactly why Taff is hailed as The King of Pain.