Can you believe it has been a year since the first VIRO book was published?
A whole year!
And so much has happened since then – it has been an incredible journey so far.
The most exciting news is that VIRO is sitting at Number One in the charts.
This is really amazing and a special thanks must go out to everyone who has helped to get it there.
In the space of that same year we have also seen the launch of Books Two and Three in the VIRO series.
Slowly but surely, VIRO is changing the way we think about zombie novels.
Even as we speak, Book Four is on the way.
If you have been following the adventures of Jake and the gang then you will know that there will be plenty of twists and turns ahead of them.
Reviews for the series have been incredibly positive and have really helped spread the word.
If you are interested in finding out more about VIRO, then why not download a copy today. Book One is FREE for Kindle from Amazon and is a great introduction to the characters and the horrific circumstances they find themselves in. The world has collapsed and Jake and his friends must fight for survival as they search the wasteland for his Jake’s mum.
The tunnel looked dark and dangerous. I didn’t want to go inside. No way. I wanted to run away. But I had to help Ellis. She had helped me at the shop. She thought this was the right way to go. Ellis put her arm around my shoulder. We started to walk.
The darkness ate us all up. It was impossible to see. I looked back at the entrance. I wished we were out there still.
Ellis limped next to me. Her ankle was very sore. She was trying to be brave. I heard her gasping. It was so frightening.
We went very slowly. I was very edgy. Danger could be anywhere. I kept my head clear. I needed to pay real attention.
I heard something. The stones moved. I hoped it was just an animal. I heard it again. I thought it was a footstep.
The stones moved again. It was footsteps. I felt upset.
‘What’s the matter?’ Ellis said.
‘There’s something behind us.’
‘We’d better hurry then.’
It was hard to hurry. We couldn’t go fast. Ellis was too sore. Her ankle made us slow. This was danger.
The footsteps kept coming.
I was really worried. I pulled Ellis through the tunnel. She sounded hurt but didn’t say anything. We kept going.
The footsteps started running.
This was bad. Ellis couldn’t go faster. I knew the tunnel was a bad idea. Why didn’t I say so? I should have done. It was too late now. We couldn’t go back.
‘Ellis,’ I said. ‘We need to get out.’
‘How? Tunnels only have one way in and one way out.’
‘Maybe,’ I said. ‘I did a project on old trains at school. We need a ventilation shaft.’
I touched the side of the tunnel. I wanted to find a ladder or a doorway. Bricks. Bricks. Bricks. Then I felt metal pipes. They were on the side of the wall.
‘Quick,’ I said. ‘Follow the pipes.’
I kept my hand on the pipes. There was muck all over them. My hand was dirty quickly. I felt the tunnel curving.
It was hard to touch the pipes and pull Ellis along. She was really sore.
‘I can’t keep going,’ she said. ‘My ankle is killing me. You find the shaft and come back for me later if you can.’
‘No way!’ I said. ‘You won’t be eaten in this terrible tunnel. You saved my life. I’m saving yours.’
I pulled her harder.
Then the viros howled. The sound was way back. The tunnel made it really loud. It was all evil echoes. The howl frightened Ellis. She let go of me. She tried to run. It was like quick hopping. She started to cry.
This is stupid, I thought. Why did we do this? We should have stayed on the roof. It was safe up there.
Why did I have to survive? I could be a viro like all of them. That would be easier.
We kept running. My side got hurt. It was a stabbing pain.
‘Stitch,’ I said. ‘I’ve got the stitch.’
‘Keep going!’ Ellis said. ‘There must be something up ahead.’
‘There is,’ said a voice behind us. ‘Up here on the left.’
I thought I would share a quick update on some of the amazing feedback that the two VIRO books have been getting. Reviews are the lifeblood of any author and it is great to hear that people are responding favourably to the post-apocalyptic adventures of Jake and his friends.
‘I bought this book a couple of months ago and it has been sitting on my desk up until last weekend. As I was travelling last weekend I decided to take this book with me. It would not be my normal choice of book but I decided to give it a go..! Bottom Line is I could not leave it down..! Over the course of two flights, sitting around airports and a bit of bedtime reading it gave a new insight into this style of writing. The author, Barnaby Taylor certainly has a way with words and is clearly an expert in holding an audience. I see he has the 2nd book out now, and I will be buying this one asap..!
It strikes me that this series of books could be open to a teenage audience who I believe would get a lot from the story line and the characters.
5 Stars from me for Mr.Taylor.’
‘I absolutely loved this book. Powerful and poignant, ‘Viro’ packs a punch. Sad and haunting, ‘Viro’ is a new take on the zombie genre.The characters are dynamic and interesting, finding strength despite their horrifying circumstances. Jake is a character that will stick with you long after the final page. The action sequences are thrilling. I was on the edge of my seat! I can’t wait to read Book Two!!‘
‘Absolutely thrilling. I loved every page more than the previous, to the point that I couldn’t stop reading. Jake, a unique and curious character with good intentions. Ellis, the cunning and loyal girl who sees that Jake is different. Abe, brave but not so bold. Amber, intent on getting the Job done the quickest way possible. These four kids make their way through a zombie infected place they used to call home, struggling to cling on to the things they love and desperately seeking safety.
I was left on the edge of my seat when I finished the book with a thirst for more adventure! Amazing.‘
‘Viro: Book Two” is incredible. Picking up where the first one left off, this book grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go. It’s fast paced and superbly thrilling! The narrative is poignant and heartbreaking as Jake’s unique voice draws you in. Highly recommend this series to anyone who enjoys zombie stories. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for Jake and the gang!‘
The rain fell like tears from all the eyes of all the dead the world now knew. Everyone was soaking wet and freezing cold. The sound of the angry swarm raged beneath us. It filled the air. We were all too frightened to move in case they saw us.
‘I doubt that any of them could get up here,’ said Vinnie. ‘I pulled up the ladder so logically we should be safe.’
But the rules of logic didn’t apply anymore. Dead people coming back to life had rendered these rules redundant in the time it took for someone else to be turned into a viro. In any case, we weren’t so much as safe as actually trapped. The safe part was the simple consequence of being trapped. At least that was how I saw it.
I surrendered to despair. I retreated into that part of me where I had always felt the safest whenever my difference to most of the rest of the world became too noticeable.
‘It’s okay to be quiet, Jake,’ Mum would say. ‘It is also okay to be private but please don’t let the world make you feel that you always have to be like this.’
She smiled and ruffled my hair. I loved it when she did that.
‘It’s also okay to be loud and enjoy life and have lots of friends and play silly games and just be yourself.’
But she wasn’t here right now and so the self that I felt most like being was the quiet and private and despairing self, not the loud and life-enjoying one.
Ellis had fallen asleep with her head on my shoulder. Her hair was so close to my face that I could smell it. Even despite all the dirt and danger it smelled amazing. I closed my eyes and inhaled as carefully as I could. I held my breath for as long as possible.
As I gently exhaled I opened my eyes to find Abe watching me. I think he smiled but I wasn’t sure. He saw what I had done. What must he have thought? I went to speak but Abe didn’t want to. He shook his head and turned away.
Baxter was huddled at my feet and whimpered softly as he dreamed. His coat was covered in tiny water droplets and in this light he shimmered as he shivered. I felt really mean. Baxter had been trapped when I rescued him but now he was trapped again. A dog like that would have had no trouble surviving on its own but instead, in the short space that we had known each other I had pulled him free from one cage only to trap him in another.
Baxter whimpered again.
It wasn’t much of a life for him but this wasn’t much of a life for anyone. Were we better off stranded on this roof with no hope of being rescued? Or would it have been better to be engulfed by the swarm like everyone else? I tried to make the calculations in my mind but I couldn’t be sure.
I was getting hungry and with no food and no drink it wouldn’t be long before we were all in trouble. Abe had suggested that he crept back downstairs to try and find something to eat.
‘I’ll give it a go,’ said Abe. ‘I’m good at sneaking about and staying hidden.’
But, as Vinnie pointed out, the tower block would be full of viros by now and how would anyone be able to sneak down five sets of stairs, get into the kitchen, find what we needed and then sneak back up five flights of stairs without being noticed.
‘You’re a brave kid, Abe,’ said Vinnie, ‘but it would be a suicide mission and in any case, if you didn’t make it back then one of us would probably end up having to come and look for you and then if we didn’t make it back then the next person and the next person.’
I could see that Abe was disappointed. Amber punched her brother playfully on the arm.
‘Vinnie’s right, you know,’ she said kindly. ‘You’re good, Abe, really good, but no one could get down there and back. It wouldn’t matter who you were. There’s far too many of them.’
Abe and I lifted Ellis under her armpits and Amber grabbed her legs. Ellis howled with the pain. Not knowing what else to do other than try to escape, we set off towards the ring road. Ellis was heavy and each step we took made her cry louder and louder. She tried her hardest not to make a sound but the pain was too much. The three of us looked at each other. We all knew that were doomed. We got to the start of the ring road without any further adventure and turned right, heading out of the town.
It was morning now so at least we could see ahead of us. The ring road snaked away into the distance, cutting a dull wedge into the usual type of boring empty muddy fields and wooden fences that mark the next stage of development on the outskirts of every town. The winter sky was grey and low with thick-looking clouds hovering just above our heads. A vast expanse of boggy marshland stretched away on the other side of the road and in the distance I could see the sea glowering on the horizon. A hateful wind began to blow from off the marshes and hit us hard and cold. I shivered.
We trudged on in slow and stupid silence. Ellis had stopped crying and seemed to be half-asleep. Abe and I were really struggling not to drop her. Amber was walking backwards, bent at the waist and barely managing to keep hold of Ellis’s legs. They both looked spent. My back burned with every step I took. When a situation like this happens in a film you always know that someone somewhere is going to find that extra bit of energy to make sure that everyone gets to safety. They may even deliver a rousing speech. But films work differently to real life and though we were some of the most determined children you could ever hope to meet, we were rapidly reaching the point where we simply couldn’t go on. Amber was the first to stop.
‘I can’t go any further,’ she said and her voice sounded so tired and so disappointed. ‘I thought we’d be able to do this but I think it’s all over.’ She steered us to the side of the road. ‘Let’s put Ellis down here and see if we can catch our breath.’ We set Ellis down as gently as we could. I sat down next to her. She was now asleep. Amber sat the other side. Neither of us said a word. Abe stood on the road, scanning the horizon.
‘There must be somewhere we can reach,’ he said. ‘There has to be.’ He looked imploringly at the two of us. ‘Can we get going again soon?’ he said. ‘I can’t stand just standing still.’
‘I think this is the end of the line,’ said Amber sadly. ‘Ellis is far too heavy for us to manage and we can’t just leave her behind. That is not an option.’
‘I’m not suggesting that,’ Abe said. ‘No way.’ He looked back towards the horizon. ‘Perhaps there’s a barn near here where we can hide? There must be something.’
‘But we’ve got nothing left,’ said his sister softly. ‘We have lost everything.’ Amber looked at me. ‘I sorry,’ she said. ‘I’m sorry about earlier.’ She laughed.
‘I know that you didn’t plan to make any of this happen. You’re really brave and loyal but I just got angry when it all went wrong.’ I looked up, suspiciously.
‘Do you mean it?’ I asked hesitantly. ‘Do you really mean it?’
‘I do,’ replied Amber. ‘I didn’t mean to be so mean.’ She leaned over and touched my arm. ‘We really like you, Jake. We really do, don’t we Abe?’ Abe came over to stand next to me.
‘Absolutely,’ he said. ‘Of course we do.’ Abe’s voice trailed off. He gasped. ‘Don’t look now but I think we had better think of a plan real quick.’
Amber and I stood up.
The marshland to the right of us was slowly filling with viros as a massive swarm made its clumsy way towards us. There was hundreds of them and they must have spent the night stumbling across the boggy ground. The wind carried their foul stench before them and I gagged. They would be upon us in no time.
‘Where did they all come from?’ I asked as my eyes started to water. ‘Where the hell are they going?’
‘From everywhere,’ said Abe. ‘To everywhere.’
‘They must have some kind of memory of their life before,’ suggested Amber. ‘That must be what is making them head for the nearest town.’
Even though it was the most terrifying thing I had ever seen in my short life, I couldn’t stop watching the swarm as it made its lethal way towards us. I was hypnotized by this giant cartoon blob of angry, hungry dead people all twitching and slipping and trampling as they struggled over the boggy ground. Some of the viros looked like they were dancing.
With the hatch in the floor bolted shut, the twins led me and Ellis down a dimly lit service corridor until we came to a large metal door in the wall. The boy pulled the door open and stepped through.
‘After you,’ said the girl to the two of us. Ellis walked slowly through and I followed.
We found ourselves in a small utility room. One wall was lined with metal shelves. There was a steel sink in the corner and above the sink was a first aid box. The girl opened the box and took out a box of bandages. She pointed to a rusty chair by the door.
‘Sit down, ‘ she said to Ellis. ‘I’ll take a look at your ankle.’ Ellis sat down. I suddenly felt very tired and slumped to the floor. The boy handed me a bottle of water. I said thank you with my eyes and took a big swig.
‘Who are you both and why were you following us?’
‘I’m Abraham,’ said the boy, ‘but everyone calls me Abe.’ Abe pointed at the girl. ‘My twin sister’s name is Amber.’
‘And I’m the eldest by three and a half minutes,’ said Amber as she expertly wound a bandage around Ellis’s ankle. ‘We were on our way back here,’ she continued, ‘when we heard the two of you making enough noise to wake the already awake dead.’ She laughed.
‘This tunnel is a favourite short-cut for the infected of this town and had you carried on much further you would have stumbled upon so many of them that you would never have escaped. We were running to warn you.’
‘And also because there was another swarm right behind us,’ laughed Abe. Ellis looked puzzled.
‘But how did you know that this place existed?’ she asked.
‘Our dad owned the construction company that was repairing this tunnel and he told about this secret room. Apparently, it was built just in case anyone got trapped in the tunnel due to a train crash, landslide or other disaster. They could make their way here and wait to be rescued.’ Abe was a cheerful boy and laughed again. ‘Clearly no-one is coming to rescue us any time soon.’
Amber finished with Ellis’s ankle and put the bandages away. Everyone was silent for a minute and then I spoke.
‘We are Jake and Ellis and we met on top of a roof. My mum is missing and we are on our way to find Ellis’s brother, Vinnie who we think is still alive and hiding at St. Dunstan’s School. We have been bumping into these viros all day.’ The twins nodded.
‘Viros,’ said Abe. ‘That’s a cool name for these things.’
‘We went past the school earlier,’ said Amber ‘and there was a group of people on the roof of the gymnasium. We couldn’t stop to help as we were being followed by a very persistent bunch of these things.’
‘We managed to lose them, ‘ continued Abe, ‘and made our way here to wait for nightfall. Once it was dark we sneaked out to try and see if there was anyone else left alive. We were just coming back when we saw the two of you ahead of us.’
‘We had no way of knowing who you were,’ said Amber, ‘so we followed you until we realised that we were being following by a swarm. That’s when we started running.’
This was the first time in the short time that I had known her that I had seen Ellis looked scared and this of course made me feel terrified. She seemed so calm and collected, even when she talked about her parents and so I kind of assumed that she was one of those fearless-type kids you read about in comics or see in films; the ones who seem old before their time and wise beyond their years. I went to speak and she shook her head. Her eyes were wide and I thought she was going to cry. If this was how she looked then how must I have appeared to her? I would hate to think. It is hard to be cool when you are petrified but it is harder still to be petrified in front of someone you would like to impress. The swarm was stumbling noisily closer and had now blocked off the road completely, meaning there was no way we would be able to run back past them, even if we wanted to.
I looked around, desperately trying to think of something to do. The road we were on had terraced houses on both sides but all the doors I could see were shut and no –one had left their windows open just in case two kids might need to escape from a double viro swarm some time in the not-too-distant future. There was the odd tree in the front gardens but only the ornamental fir-type not the big-tall-hide-from-a-monster-type.
The viros were getting so close now that I was starting to see their faces and what they were wearing. Like those old paintings of Hell we were once shown at school by our art teacher, the swarm was twisting, howling, growling, moaning, mindless and contorted. Angry-looking men and women, as well as teenagers and kids are stumbling and bumping and getting in each other’s way and pushing each other along and generally moving towards me and Ellis in the kind of nightmarish, creeping way you normally see in those TV shows that none of us are meant to watch but all of us have seen. Fortunately, and unlike many of the other apocalyptic swarms you see in films, our viros weren’t the running kind which was handy because if they had been then it would have all been over before it had even begun.
I looked at Ellis and she still looked uncertain. I pointed at the nearest front garden and she nodded. We quickly climbed over the low wall and tried to find the thickest bush we could find to hide behind. Things didn’t look good and thinking that the end was about to begin I shut my eyes and tried to imagine exactly how it felt to be ripped to shreds by other people’s teeth. I reached out and gripped Ellis’s hand. She gripped mine hard in return. In any other situation this would have been a perfect next step in any developing relationship. Sadly, however, there was nothing perfect about any of this and so with no thought of anything else other than our rapidly approaching death, we just huddled together with only a flimsy shrub between oblivion and us.
The noise was deafening now and there seemed nothing left to do but wait for the inevitable to happen. The swarms wailed and gnashed and screamed and keened, as if angry to have been transformed into bloodthirsty monsters against their will. Contorted twisted unhappy figures raged against the circumstances of their new existence. But it wasn’t just hateful sounds that filled the night. My nostrils began to fill with the stench of the recently infected and the business that their infection has caused them to do, namely eat human flesh. I had never smelt anything like this before (thankfully). It was acrid and metallic and ripe and rotten. I gagged. With my eyes tightly closed I could feel my senses being totally overwhelmed. I felt small and weak and helpless. I felt like there was nothing I could do. Ellis crouched terrified beside me. I knew she was feeling the same way. She gripped my hand and I thought the bones were going to start shattering one by one, knuckle by knuckle, joint by joint, finger by finger.
‘This is it!’ I thought. ‘This is how it feels to die.’ I braced myself and waited for the swarm to fall upon us.
But it didn’t. Above the baleful din of the viros I suddenly heard the sounds of gunfire and engines. I opened my eyes and saw that the night was full of nozzle flashes and in the strange strobe light that these flashes created I watched in awe and wonder and shock as the swarms of angry viros were torn apart by a storm of bullets. A convoy of trucks was forcing itself through the swarms, scattering viros as it did. Each truck was carrying soldiers wearing gas masks and each soldier was firing at the viros. We crouched in stunned silence as the soldiers made short work of both swarms. Bullets flew everywhere. Dead viros began to pile up all around us and as they did so I felt the sudden urge to run towards the trucks waving my arms in a desperate bid for the soldiers to spot us and save us from the viros. I half-stood up, ready to leap over the low wall but Ellis pulled me back and held me tight and wouldn’t let me go.
‘They’ll shoot us too,’ she whispered. ‘At a time like this they won’t be able to tell the difference between the living and the dead. We’re all viros to them right now.’ She wrapped her arms tightly around me.