THE CASUALTIES by Nick HoldstockThe Casualties by Nick Holdstock
Published by St. Martin's Press on August 4th 2015
Pages: 288
Genres: Fiction, Literary, Science Fiction, Apocalyptic & Post-Apocalyptic
eARC provided by Copy provided by publisher via NetGalley


In Nick Holdstock's The Casualties, a man recounts the final weeks of his neighborhood before the apocalyptic event that only a few of the eccentric residents will survive.

Samuel Clark likes secrets. He wants to know the hidden stories of the bizarre characters on the little streets of Edinburgh, Scotland. He wants to know about a nymphomaniac, a man who lives under a bridge, a girl with a cracked face. He wants to uncover their histories because he has secrets of his own. He believes, as people do, that he is able to change. He believes, as the whole world does, that there is plenty of time to solve his problems. But Samuel Clark and the rest of the world are wrong. Change and tragedy are going to scream into his and everyone's lives. It will be a great transformation, a radical change; and it just might be worth the cost.

Written by a rising literary star whose work has been published in notoriously selective publications such as n+1 and The Southern Review, The Casualties is an ambitious debut novel that explores how we see ourselves, our past and our possible futures. It asks the biggest question: How can we be saved?

Reading time 3 mins

The Casualties starts off so good. Right away, I thought the premise was interesting. The cast of characters is really unique. Somewhere along the way this book lost my interest, though. I can’t quite put my finger on what the big turn off was but I found myself caring less and less about what happened to these people.

Samuel Clark runs a bookstore where all the proceeds go to charity. He lives in a small town called Comely Bank which is outside of Edinburgh, Scotland. In receiving loads of books for the bookstore, Samuel begins to find interesting things within the pages. The secrets he collects within the pages tell the stories of the people in the town. Alasdair, a homeless man living under a bridge who shouts out cures for the illnesses of the people. Sinead, a nymphomaniac who takes care of Toby. Toby is a grossly obese mentally challenged man who has an obsession with food. Caitlin, who has a skin cracking condition, she never finds a cure. Trudy, a prostitute who gets into trouble. Mrs. Maclean, a woman that just wants to die. The two town drunks, Rita and Sean. Everyone in this book has a story to tell in the weeks leading up to the big event. The whole story takes place in 2016, and something terrible happens in 2017.

This story was written in almost prose. It is first person and second person narrative. The chapters jump from person to person, so it is hard to stay focused on the timeline. Everything is happening in the past. It is someone looking back and then reliving events. I enjoyed this book immensely at the beginning. Sam is an interesting character and the town is full of people with excellent stories to tell. I really enjoyed the people at first. The people in this story are not predictable, but not prone to action either.

Around the midpoint, I realized this story is leading up to much of the same. People and their stories and more jumbling of the timeline. By then, I grew bored. That makes for a non action sort of tale where people are just mildly reacting to the situation. By the ending, I was really bored and the non-climactic ending suited my feelings for this story. The reason for the apocalypse is never pointed out, we just get the hint the world offed itself. Things happen, but very slowly. There were pictures scattered throughout the book, but even this could not save from the fact that I lost just interest in this story. I felt a little depressed reading this. This story was really an acquired taste.

My Rating


About Nick Holdstock

NICK HOLDSTOCK's fiction and essays have appeared in a wide range of US and UK publications, including The London Review of Books, The Southern Review, n+1, Dissent, Vice, The Independent, and Los Angeles Review of Books. He is the author of The Tree That Bleeds: A Uighur Town on the Edge (Luath Press Ltd 2011), a book about life in China's Xinjiang province, and China's Forgotten People (I B Tauris 2015). In 2012 he was awarded a Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship for fiction. He lives in Edinburgh.

I received this product free of charge in exchange for an honest review. This post contains affiliate links. This review is in compliance with the FTC guidelines.

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