I received a copy of this short story as a free offering from the author as a member of his mailing list.
Empire of the Tooth is set approximately 5 years after the close of 2013’s “Animal Kingdom” and serves as a sequel to the former.
When we last left Joe and Danny, they had barely escaped the zoo on the day that the animals, led by a fierce gorilla named “Nero”, seemingly went crazy and started attacking all humans. Five years have passed and the human world and animal kingdoms are still at war with no end in sight. Joe and Danny find themselves in a sort of fortified encampment, living every day keeping watch against the next attack.
One morning while Danny is on guard, Joe leaves the camp in search of some items to keep the camp’s occupants from remaining idle. After finding himself cornered in a toy store by an animal combatant, an unlikely ally comes to his aide… a dog. Joe decides to bring the dog back to the camp with him as it appears that the canine isn’t affected by whatever has hold of all the other animals and is just a normal pet.
Could whatever it is that has the Earth’s animal population in a murderous rage be subsiding and life returning to normal? After five years of death and destruction, are Joe and Danny finally going to be able to return to a life of semi normalcy, or is there something more sinister afoot.
As far as short stories go, this one sort of reads like an episode of the Walking Dead, but I’m not complaining about that. Being a huge fan of the series, it was easy for me to picture the ruined cities and even the fortified wall of the encampment. The story, while short, was very fast paced and left an opening for a third (or more) installments to come.
It is my understanding that “Empire of the Tooth” may have been written to be part of a larger compilation of short stories by many authors which may or may not even be released. This is a shame, both for the author who worked hard to develop this follow up story only to possibly have it shelved and also to fans of Iain and those who liked Animal Kingdom who may not ever get the chance to read this follow up piece. Although with this being a short story, I still see where future stories may be written to continue the saga after this period and incorporating flashback or other methods to fill in the blanks.
All in all, I would have to say this is a solid story, a fast paced read with a jaw dropper ending.