Famine now leads the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse as they sweep across the planet in volume two of the Millennium Quartet, following the plotlessly sluggish Symphony (1996), which was devoted to Death. This new installment is more subtle than its predecessor, relying more on nuance to suggest the final cataclysm that will be played out in far-off volume four. This time, the story focuses on former CPA-turned-writer John Bannock, now in New Orleans researching a book on mass murderers. Wife Patty and son Joey have left him because of his obsession with this gruesome subject, so the depressed Bannock pursues Lisse Gayle Montgomery, a waitress, to help beat the blues. When her boss fires her, John hires Lisse to type up his interviews. Ghosts of executed interviewees float about him, and a spooky man in a white suit dogs him: Reverend Lanyon Trask, whose eye is on the Antichrist. Meanwhile, Father Chisholm (from Symphony) tells Bannock that they are both men marked by the evil furies. Strange crows with blue eyes abound, and John and Lisse are attacked on a ferry by a famished boy sporting sharpened brass knuckles—a boy who bears an uncanny resemblance to Bannock's son. Food grows short. People riot and die. Do crows attacking humans, and soundless windstorms and thunder out of clear blue skies, portend the end of the world? Has the Antichrist arrived? Is his presence announced by the swollen ranks of mass murderers at loose in the world? What part, exactly, does Rod Gillespie, an escaped serial killer, play in bringing about the end of the ages? As worldwide famine settles in, things begin to look bleak, but not as bleak as when Joey, astride a palomino, turns into the Second Horseman. The Glenn Miller title idea of the Apocalypse being bouncy fun calls for Terry Southern, who is not available. Simply feels ground out.
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