One my favourite things about twitter, besides the cute puppy photos and hardcore sweariness, is finding criminally overlooked books which Waterstones are too prickish to keep in stock. Sean Cregan’s All You Leave Behind is one of them.
Chase is a runner, making high risk deliveries into The Levels, a slum no reputable company will enter, and he knows his game; blend in, move fast, never, ever open the package. Which is doable, until a package starts ringing. Inside is a gun and a woman’s voice at the other end of the phone telling him he was being set-up as an unwitting suicide bomber for the recipient. She’s saved his life but the job still needs doing.
Chase isn’t the kind of man to go blowing holes in strangers for the hell of it though and as he begins to pick up hints about the mystery woman’s identity he gets dragged deeper into The Levels fractured geography of burned out lots and ambush-friendly rat-runs. Is she a vigilante or a guardian angel? With the package’s original senders after him to finish the job and his family under threat as a turf war rages Chase needs her to be the latter.
The denouement is driven forward at a tremendous pace, an orgy of cinematic violence which is ultimately very satisfying.
It’s impossible to read All You Leave Behind without thinking of William Gibson’s Sprawl novels, the architecture is the same, all slow decay and Darwinian solutions, and Cregan has a fantastic eye for location. The Levels slum is an accelerated version of any western world sink estate you could think of, thriving but precarious and given a light cyberpunk gloss. As in Gibson’s later novels the familiarity is nicely disconcerting, we know this place but we probably aren’t equipped to survive in it, which is a problem because it’s coming closer all the time.
This is an impressively sleek novella, written in stripped down prose with not a word out of place. The characters are well drawn, the plotting pacy, and Cregan creates such a pervasive atmosphere that you can almost taste the smell of dead junky.
All You Leave Behind by Sean Cregan is available now.