, , , , , , , , , , ,

Life of the party? Not…

Pandemic-imposed isolation is hard for most of us. For others it’s a nightmare. But for introverts? I come from a family of engineers, which is almost the same as saying I come from a family of introverts. My daughter says she’s never been happier than WFH during quarantine. My brother-in-law says he’s been training for this all his life. My sister says there’s no way they’re ever getting her back in her cubicle. Other family members rhapsodize on the joys of zipperless pants**, coding with a cat on your lap, nobody to be offend when you belch or fart or indulge in sound-effects for your stretch breaks.

**[My British friends can just stop sniggering. (You know who you are…) Whether or not zipped undies are a thing anywhere, pants=trousers for Americans.] 

Most writers are also not-so-closeted introverts. We allow our characters to have a rich social life, knowing we can always kill them later if they’re having too much fun. But we ourselves have been known to view the annual arrival of the holiday season’s enforced festivities with the enthusiasm usually reserved for multiple root canal procedures or US presidential elections. On the one hand: dental torture and presidential candidates. But on the other hand? It does feel soooo good when it’s over.

So for introverts, 2020 is a game changer. Engineers, writers, and introverts everywhere are secretly cataloging their pandemic liberation from the torture festive fun of the following holiday celebrations we’re so not attending this holiday season.

We had a few hours to kill in London one Christmas, and decided to see the longest running show, Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap. (61 years and counting) Even the actors were so bored with it that they seemed to be delivering lines in their sleep. BUT it was all worth it because almost everyone in the audience wore an Ugly Christmas Jumper, including the young man next to us who proudly displayed knitted snowmen comparing the sizes of their groin-level er…carrots.
[image credit: Homelife ]

Occasion #1: The Friends Party. Since moving to the UK, I’ve learned the more they joke about something, the more seriously they take it. Like their Queen, their cricket, their eye-popping flavorings for potato crisps (chips), and their very-proper way to queue, they take their holiday celebrating seriously. By the time you leave a party, if you’re way too hot, way too full, and way WAY too drunk, you’ll know it was a successful party. [Bonus points if you wake up the next morning in a different UCJ (Ugly Christmas Jumper) than the one you wore the night before.] 

Occasion #2: The Office Party. Instead of spending this forced incarceration festive celebration revising your resume and applying for the new job you’re definitely going to need by tomorrow, introverts know to grab their one lousy free drink festive beverage and seek the roof if those three people, two portable scanners, and a flexible mag flashlight from IT have finished their disturbing and anatomically improbable attempts at fornication/ the kitchen pantry/ the janitor’s closet some dignified privacy by commandeering the end toilet stall and barricading it against all comers no matter how desperate they claim to be.

Once safely locked in, open your phone to a good white noise app loud enough to drown out the piped-in Christmas music and/or the people in the next stall begging for the end of the world, and open your Kindle app to an appropriately topical mystery such as Terry Tyler’s dystopian The Visitor [see review below] to take your mind off listening to the truly disturbing things your colleagues are doing in the adjacent stalls. And the best part? It’s such an engrossing read, you’ll race through it and still have plenty of time to work on that resume before it’s safe to leave your refuge.

Occasion #3: The New Year’s Party. True confession: All my life, I’ve wanted to go to an honest-to-confetti New Year’s Eve bash. Back in my university days, I did come close to achieving the iconic New Year’s Eve party when a friend of my sister invited me to a Major Social Event—balloons, live big band, valet parking—at the family’s Lake Michigan shorefront estate on Chicago’s north side. By promising to care for his geriatric cats when he went on Spring Break, I managed to get the one other person on the planet who didn’t have a New Year’s Eve date to agree to come with me.

I never saw the party, but I did spend the next few days with the cats while my date went in for an emergency broken-jawectomy after slipping on the ice as we walked up to the front door of the party. My mother said that I at least owed him marriage after that, but I felt the cats were payment enough. Besides, I think a true gentleman would have refused to get into that ambulance until we’d counted down to midnight and had some champagne.

Sally got champagne, confetti, and a kiss at midnight. And she never had to take care of Harry’s cats…

While introverts everywhere are thanking the pandemic for freedom from holiday celebratory torture, I recommend a look at Terry Tyler’s post-pandemic murder mystery, The Visitor. Yet another reason to be grateful for pandemics!

BLURB: The Visitor by Terry Tyler

In 2024, a mystery virus ravages the entire world. ‘Bat Fever’ is highly contagious and one hundred percent lethal.

A cottage tucked away in an isolated Norfolk village seems like the ideal place to sit out a catastrophic pandemic, but some residents of Hincham resent the arrival of Jack, Sarah and their friends, while others want to know too much about them.

What the villagers don’t know is that beneath Sarah’s cottage is a fully-stocked, luxury survival bunker. A post-apocalyptic ‘des res’.

Hincham isolates itself from the rest of the country, but the deaths continue―and not from the virus. There’s a killer on the loose, but is it a member of the much-depleted community, or somebody from outside? Paranoia is rife, as friend suspects friend, and everybody suspects the newcomers.

Most terrifying of all is that nobody knows who’s next on the list…

The Visitor is Terry Tyler’s twenty-second Amazon publication, and is set in the same world as her Project Renova series, while being a completely separate, stand-alone novel.

My Review: 5 stars out of 5 for The Visitor by Terry Tyler

Years ago I was on a cross-country flight. It was before individual screens for each seat, and the in-flight movie came on. As proof of serious drug problems in the airline industry, the movie chosen was Cast Away, which begins with one of the most terrifying plane crash scenes ever filmed. At one point, the movie stopped due to turbulence and the captain came on to make a safety announcement. Then the plane crash scene continued. As I listened to my fellow passengers complain and even sob, I wondered why anyone would show a plane crash to passengers in the middle of a flight.

I wondered the same thing when I started to read Terry Tyler’s new release, The Visitor. Why would I read a post-apocalyptic thriller about a world-destroying pandemic when we’re in the middle of a pandemic? The first answer was simple: because it’s by Terry Tyler, one of the very best writers I know. She’s simply incapable of writing a bad book. The second reason is Terry is dead-on, scary accurate with her predictions. Her earlier books in the Project Renova series predate our current dance with the Coronavirus, but her fiction predicted our reality more times than I’m comfortable admitting.

The Visitor is billed as a standalone murder mystery in a post-apocalyptic world. Four friends whose lives have been inseparable since University are invited to view a house that one, Sarah, has inherited. The house comes with a state-of-the-art disaster prep bunker, fully kitted out with all the mod cons to ride out the end of the world. But when the virus hits with such devastating force that only 5% of the population is expected to survive, two of the original quartet succumb and are replaced a surviving brother and girlfriend.

The Visitor is told from several points of view, but primarily by Jack, one of the original four friends. Before the pandemic, Jack is an unsuccessful science fiction writer, whose tepid relationship with his girlfriend masks the fact that he’s basically coasting through life while waiting for the glamourous Sarah to leave her obnoxious husband for him.

In addition, there is Avalon, devastated when her lover, Rexy—one of the original four friends—is infectected and dies while she’s prevented from being with him. He tells her to go to Sarah’s survival bunker, where she soon fits in.

Finn is the younger brother of Daisy, one of the original four who is an early virus victim. Brilliant but emotionally challenged, he has foreseen and prepared for the situation with single-minded intensity that, “…makes him feel powerful” and as close to happy as he’s capable of being.

And finally, there is The Visitor, a mysterious serial killer.

I float amongst them, listening to them. They don’t have a clue. I laugh to myself. This is the best fun I have ever had.

Who is it? Is it one of the newcomers, hiding in their sanctuary bunker with its stash of lifesaving luxuries? Or is it one of the villagers, seizing their chance during the chaos and death of the pandemic? 

To tell the truth, the murderer’s identity seemed obvious after one character-revealing act near the beginning. But I don’t actually think that’s the point of the book. Instead, as with any good zombie apocalypse story, it’s ordinary people capable of embracing a new reality who survive. The analogy isn’t lost, as one of the characters demands, “Do you actually understand what’s happening? Have you never seen 8 Days Later? Survivors? The Walking Dead?” In those scenarios, it’s the ones who become proficient thieves and killers who have the best chance of survival.

This is reflected in the use of the acronym, TEOTWAWKI (The End Of The World As We Know It). The first use occurs when a demoralized young soldier tells villagers they can’t enter a town in search of supplies. One demands, “This is a free country, isn’t it?” The reply is, “Not any more, it’s not.” TEOTWAWKI is next used by a soldier explaining the government is gone, vaccinations were doled out with political goals, and remaining survivors are on their own, and murders don’t matter in a murdered world. The following use is a joke, as Jack, one of the two remaining from the original four friends, wonders why anyone would bother highlighting their hair during the end of the world.

I can’t discuss the final use of TEOTWAWKI except to say that it comes as the layers that have allowed the remaining characters to live in the pre-pandemic ‘civilized’ world are peeled back. One is forced to acknowledge all the things they never allowed themself to see, while another revels in the freedom to be all the things once forbidden to them. And one, unwilling and unable to face their own real character, returns to hiding in the bunker.

Interestingly, the personas who do emerge from this crucible are almost archetypal opposites. One clings to basic human values—”We’re living in desperate times, and old world rules don’t apply. But they still kind of do.” The other embraces the freedom to stop hiding their true nature. “Now that there are no constraints, like social conventions and law, we are free to explore every aspect of the person that is us.”

And that brings me to the final reason why it was okay to watch a plane crash while I was on a flight, and to read about a serial killing spree during a world-ending pandemic. The answer is simple. We get to see how it ends. Tom Hanks copes with the crash and, emerges as a stronger, successful survivor. The pandemic murder mystery is solved, and (some) people not only survive, but—stripped of the illusions they hid behind—are now uniquely capable of facing the new world.

The Visitor is a brilliantly written, disturbing, entertaining study of character development at the end of the world. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Now, may I please have that vaccination?