Apocalypse Fresno

Central Valley becomes the playground for Anthony Puyo’s novel, The Compelled.

By Lisa Talley

Religious groups believed it to be a mass possession; something from a dark world we can’t see with our bare eyes, hosting onto the weak in spirit. But as time passed, we saw it was none of those things. Trapped in a world where violence supersedes compassion, and death is the fruit of man’s labor; Craig Bainy desperately searches for his family.” This is only a snippet of a description for local author, Anthony Puyo’s latest work The Compelled.

It’s a story about perseverance, devastation and the incredible will of the human spirit. An apocalyptic ride that will have you wondering just what sort of person you would be if the world began to unravel, revealing the wretched undertones of what it means to truly survive. But what will make this journey especially unique for Central Valley readers is that the landscape of the story takes place right here at home, in the city of Fresno.

“I’m really proud to give Fresno its own apocalyptic story. As they say; everyone seems to like to see their cities destroyed for some reason,” says Puyo. It was a decision that kept the story breathing seamlessly, projecting it forward without stalling the momentum by getting too reliant on the accuracy of a city Puyo may not be too familiar with. The city’s landscape and scenery are as much a part of the novel as the characters are, so knowing it like the back of the proverbial hand allows for a certain fluidity during the writing process.

And for a man who seems to really understand the darker side of human nature, he’s actually not that much of a horror fan. That title belongs to his mother. “She’s been a huge horror fan since as far back as I can remember,” offers Puyo, “I think subconsciously it rubbed off when I would play with my figures while she was watching [those types of tv shows and films].”

However, The Compelled would more adequately be described as a “dramatic, sci-fi horror” novel, with drama being first and horror being last. And even the term ‘novel’ doesn’t exactly quite mean what we’ve been so accustomed to with this particular story. Novels have long been associated as being these hefty lengths of work, littered with layered context and meaning dressed in metaphorical prose. Which avid readers do enjoy, but the audience is changing, adopting a preference and favor for quick paced, action packed entertainment. Novels are usually often threaded with one too many storylines without always exploring each one to every reader’s content. The Compelled isn’t that kind of novel.

“For a 564-page novel, it reads extremely fast,” explains Puyo. The style and pace of The Compelled is largely attributed to Puyo’s screenwriting style. Often, films are adapted from books, but it’s uncommon to find that a novel has adapted a style meant for the screen. Unnecessary descriptions are removed and all that is left is a streamlined leap through the author’s vision. This particular approach to the novel will have readers, even those who aren’t avid about it, turning page after page after page without missing a single detail.

Unsurprisingly, The Compelled, can easily be likened to blockbusters such as World War Z in terms of pace and storytelling; a pandemic sweeps through the country, bringing with it a cascade of fear, torment, and confusion quickly thereafter. A story of this magnitude begs an interesting question, “what sort of research goes into this?” Anthony Puyo’s response couldn’t be more perfect. “I think it’s very important to walk the line of ‘it could happen’.” Could being the operative word. Of course, the necessary research regarding medical facts and scientific theories were done, but it doesn’t need to encompass every aspect of imagination. The mantra of ‘could happen’ grants freedom to the author so that he/she may bring closure to big questions the reader will undoubtedly ask, and Puyo leaves no loose ends. “At the very end, if the reader still has questions, I think there’s a little bit of failure on the producer’s part… I weaved all the answers in [the story]”

The Compelled is available now, locally at Hart’s Haven Bookstore in the Tower District. The book is also available online, namely Amazon.com, but Puyo encourages any potential reader to purchase the book on Amazon’s sister company’s site, Createspace.com. The link is available on Puyo’s Facebook page along with other outlets. There’s no price difference for the readers, however, it does make a difference on how much Puyo actually receives. As a self-proclaimed independent, Puyo does not have the usual support of a publishing house like some other authors and has become his own sole source for that support. Being independent does have its perks, however, and as such are the reasons why Puyo remains so. It allows him to do his own editing, without a third party interjecting themselves into his work changing around his original creation, keeping not only the integrity of his original vision but of his passion as well.

You can find Anthony Puyo on Facebook as PuyosTheCompelled. There, readers can stay in touch with his upcoming events and future works. If you’re looking to get a taste of his style before delving into the novel, check out Misery Theater, a collection of short stories available online for about the cost of a comic book. And stay tuned, Puyo is far from done and will be releasing another title, a spin-off to The Compelled titled Devin, on November 3rd.