REVIEW: Red River Seven by Anthony Ryan

Last Updated on February 14, 2024

In this non-stop action ride, Resident Evil meets 28 Days Later as eight people wake up on a boat, heads shaved, a name tattooed on their forearm, and all memory of their lives gone. The first to wake up blows their brains out, and, woken by the gunshot, the remaining seven are left to face an increasingly impossible mission as they unpick their own pasts. Red River Seven, Anthony Ryan‘s first foray outside of dark fantasy, is a white knuckle ride through post-apocalyptic London.

Huxley, assumed to be a detective, is our protagonist. Through his inquisitive nature he starts to unpick the mystery of their collective amnesia, their crew, their purpose, and an odd dream he’s having about a woman wearing a hat. The rest of the crew is made up of a seemingly random assortment of skillsets such as a soldier, a rock climber, a doctor, a historian, and a scientist. Each has no idea who they are, or what their past or purpose is, only that they have a skillset and seemingly no choice but for the boat to take them deeper into a city bereft of human life.

When a satellite phone buzzes and demands Huxley tell them if any of the crew are displaying signs of aggression or delusion, or if any of them are having any dreams, and to immediately kill whoever does, the dangers within their midst are revealed and the tension ramps up.

Red River Seven has definite Resident Evil vibes, especially as we get further into the book and start to understand what’s going on. Ryan uses the characters’ odd forced-selective amnesia to reveal piece-by-piece the danger they are in. Some readers might find this a little info-dumpy, but I quite enjoyed the experience of the characters talking through mental muscle memory to figure out a way forward and to decipher more about their fellow crew.

Overall, the Red River Seven story is a relatively simple and straight forward one, the kind of book that would probably translate quite well into movie production without needing to make sweeping changes to the story arcs from the book to make the movie medium work. It’s a short book, and incredibly fast paced, with the complete lack of back story (due to amnesia) meaning we get very little in the way of character back-story info drops to slow down forward progress. This also makes it quite difficult to really get addicted to the characters in the way you might when you’re invested in the “why” of their current selves based on their past. I find this search for the why to be a trait sought by many grimdark fans, and so this aspect is likely something that that won’t land well to people seeking that deeper investment–which probably makes it a good thing this book seems to be the one-and-done kind.

Red River Seven is an easy, fun, action-packed thrill ride for lovers of action post-apocalyptic military squad-style horror. Having just DNFed an absolute slog of a novel, it was exactly what I was after to get my reading flowing again.

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Adrian Collins

Adrian Collins

Adrian Collins runs Grimdark Magazine and loves anything to do with telling darker stories. Doesn't matter the format, or when it was published or produced--just give him a grim story told in a dark world by a morally grey protagonist and this bloke's in his happy place. Add in a barrel aged stout to sip on after a cheeky body surf under the Australian sun, and that's his heaven.