Teen angst meets the end of the world.
Author (signed - paperback or e-book)
The Judas Syndrome
Joel and his friends are on the verge of graduation and excited and optimistic about their futures. But when they return from a camping trip in the remote woodlands to find themselves faced with a post-apocalyptic world, their daily lives acquire burdens and terrors hitherto unexperienced.
The Judas Syndrome is an unforgettable portrait of survival against the odds. Joel, the protagonist, is an average teen whose dreams of entering college in the fall have disintegrated with the rest of the civilized world. Experiencing a barrage of sinister premonitions prior to a camping trip, Joel struggles to shrug them off as nothing more than
anxiety over the newest cyber-terror, the Grimm Reaper. For months the Reaper has been inundating the airwaves with threats of mass destruction if world governments do not adhere to his plethora of ridiculous demands. Finally, he does more than just threaten.
The deed done, the Reaper’s threats now realized, Joel and his small band of friends find themselves alone in a dying world. Their families are all dead and gone, and Joel’s family home is now their stronghold. Faith and faithlessness are investigated as his ongoing visions prepare Joel for the realization that the worst is far from over. Prisoners to a darkened sky and toxic earth, the group fights to survive. Through battles staged on their hallowed ground, through loss and victory, the group meets the Pilate to their Judas, unwittingly setting in motion -
the Judas Syndrome.
The days just seemed to blend into one another. I’d lost count at day seventeen. I hadn’t even realized that so many had passed until Gil showed me the calendar he’d fashioned from an old school notebook.
“The army isn’t picking us up, are they, Joel?” he asked. I’d been asking myself the same question, but Gil looked so worried that I couldn’t bring myself to distress him further.
“I’m not counting them out yet. Listen, Gil, we can’t give up on ourselves, not ever.” Even if doubts had crept like dark shadows into my head, there was no point in letting on. Some leader that would make.
He didn’t reply, just picked the M-16 up off the floor and walked to the sliding glass door.
“Don’t know how much longer I can keep it together.” His voice was hollow. “I don’t know. The sadness, everyone’s sadness… I hear them, their cries in the night, the walls can’t contain it. I can’t listen to it anymore.” He began to jerk as emotion overwhelmed him and the tears came. “It can’t go on like this, Joel, I know I can’t.”
I joined him at the glass door and watched the darkness distort all that I loved, all that we were. It wasn’t easy to keep it together when somebody else was losing it, but I felt I had a responsibility to be strong. We stood there for God only knows how long. The sky was as the earth, muddied, wretched and dark. You could suffer a case of vertigo from staring for too long.
Standing there, remembering all that this view once offered- the beautiful vistas in the fall, the lush greens of the summer foliage, the crisp whites of winter snow- I realized that memory was all that remained of this place. In my mind’s eye I saw the sun come out and cleanly sweep over the trees and the lawn, the field and the pool; all that I knew were there, but could no longer see through the thick black rain falling hard from a bitter sky, just beyond the glass.
“Did you see it?” Never taking my eyes off the scene, I hoped the vision would return. It was so short lived. Was I shown a possible future? Or did I just fall back into memory to protect myself from the present?
“What? Did you say something, Joel?” Gil’s response was slow and hollow. He was only reacting to the sound of my voice, never relinquishing his stare into the abyss.
“Forget it,” I answered, knowing what I’d seen was nothing more than a memory.
“There’s a hole, you know?” Gil was starting to scare me. I listened as his voice took on a sobering new tone. “A huge hole...and I can’t fill it, not here, certainly not now.” He stared at himself in the blackened glass. “No one can... such a hole, nothing to fill it.” He paused, flexing his jaw muscles. “Only pain to feed it.”
As one not prone to read apocalypic prose, The Judas Sydrome has made me a believer in the genre.
Michael's insight into human nature under pressure and uncertainty is a textbook look at human behaviour and interdependancy. His comparison of the world outside and the world of the mind is spellbinding and the question throughout is ,which will collapse first.
The characters are strong and interesting. The action is non stop with unexpected twists and turns leaving one guessing at what might happen next. But your guess would be wrong. Michaels juxtaposition of good and evil is stark not only as it plays out on the physical landscape but more interesting on the landscape of the human mind.
The use of omenous apparitions adds great flavour to the plot and intriguingly blurs the line between fact and fantasy. The reader is constantly questioning, as are the characters, what these apparitions are, what power they have, and
what part they will play in the groups ultimate triumph or demise.
Truly a rollercoaster ride of emotion, action, introspection and mystey, a ride I am glad I waited in line for. I am already queing up for the next book. Hold onto your hat!
The Judas Syndrome is a stark and uncompromising vision of the future of our world. Considering the never-ending reportage of wars, man-made catastrophes, and natural disasters that have appeared in the news recently, this is the kind of story that seems destined to become only more relevant in the years to come. The Judas Syndrome is a stark and uncompromising vision of the future of our world. Considering the never-ending reportage of wars, man-
made catastrophes, and natural disasters that have appeared in the news recently, this is the kind of story that seems destined to become only more relevant in the years to come. - Chris Sabel
Jason Percy White
The Judas Syndrome is a nice departure from the familiar post-apocalyptic theme of scarcity. The debut novel by Michael Poeltl is rich in its use of excess – from copious amounts of drugs to gratuitous violence to the emotional highs and lows of the main characters. The book does a good job of exploring the abundance of a suddenly depopulated world.
The main character, Joel, leads a gang of high school friends who find themselves among a handful of post-
holocaust survivors. At first the friends treat the end of the world as an opportunity to party. They find a massive grow-up, scrounge more liquor then they could ever consume, and try their best to forget the family and life they have lost. However, every now and then reality seeps in, usually in a pot induced, hyper paranoid state, and Poeltldoes an excellent job of connecting the reader to the pain and denial the characters are feeling. This is perhaps the book’s strongest achievement.
A post-apocalyptic cult leader antithesis, who is typical genre hyperbole, confronts Joel and his gang roughly half way through the Judas Syndrome. The cult leader is on an Inquisition style mission to root out evil and makes outrageous demands on the school gang. Naturally Joel refuses to submit to the cult questioning and a surprisingly good fight scene ensues. But, the cult leader is not a significantly developed foil for Joel’s character to battle. The lack of a clear antithesis is the book’s weakness. On one hand, it could be said that Joel is his own worst enemy, or that the cryptical Grimm Reaper – a cyber terrorist who took credit for unleashing the apocalypse is the antithesis. Perhaps the reader will decide for themselves. In any case, The Judas Syndrome is a solid debut novel that is worth the read and I look forward to Poeltl’s next novel.
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