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by Matthew Costello

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Besieged and attacked, a mother and her children must escape a post-apocalyptic nightmare world of cannibals and betrayal

Jack Murphy thought he'd found the perfect escape for his family from a world gone horribly mad. He thought wrong. Matthew Costello's Home begins mere minutes after the terrible sacrifice made by Jack to save


Besieged and attacked, a mother and her children must escape a post-apocalyptic nightmare world of cannibals and betrayal

Jack Murphy thought he'd found the perfect escape for his family from a world gone horribly mad. He thought wrong. Matthew Costello's Home begins mere minutes after the terrible sacrifice made by Jack to save his family at Paterville Camp. Barely escaping, Jack's wife, Christie, and two children, Kate and Simon, must accept that their lives and their future have changed forever.

In this intimate and human survivalist horror story, the three of them will face even greater dangers, as well as yet-unknown horrors, to simply stay alive as together they search for a road "home" in this intense and original postapocalyptic thriller.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Costello creates a sense of urgency and fatigue as Christie tries to protect her family. He wastes no time with extraneous detail but keeps the pages turning with action and emotion that rings true. Readers need not have read the previous book, as this one works well by itself, but those who enjoy it will probably turn to more from the author.” —Library Journal

“The book is a neat twist on the zombie theme, and the story moves at a brisk clip, with plenty of mayhem.” —Booklist

“The second Murphy family post-apocalyptic horror tale is a gripping survivor thriller as three innocents struggle to stay alive...readers will want to travel the road with the Murphy family who believe in Schwartz's Law as their namesake's law proves too optimistic.” —genregoroundreviews.blogspot.com

“In this series, Matthew Costello offers up his version of zombie apocalypse (but his creatures aren't quite zombies), and after plowing through Vacation in record time, I couldn't wait to get back to this terrifying world. The prose style is short sentences, short chapters, and plenty of tension and suspense. I love it. He doesn't waste words and because of that, there's a constant feeling of immediacy and dread that will have you turning the pages with lightning speed. It will probably hit a nerve with parents, in particular, because this is Christie's story, and her strength, determination, and willingness to defend the ones she loves, especially her children, at all costs will certainly resonate. This series is perfect for fans of post-apocalyptic fiction and of course, zombie fic, but to ignore it as a just plain good thriller would be a mistake. I'm hoping the author has more plans for this series, and if so, I can't wait.” —MyBookishWays.com

“I absolutely devoured Vacation by Matthew Costello. It's dark, subversive, deeply disturbing and absolutely compelling.” —Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestselling author of The King of Plagues and Dead of Night, on Vacation

“Costello takes a typical family and throws them headfirst into a situation that's anything but. What would you do to protect those you love at the end of the world? A thrilling, fast-paced story of priorities, secrets, and survival.” —David Moody, author of the Hater and Autumn series, on Vacation

“Costello is a master at lean, swift pacing. I read this book in three big gulps. And had life not intruded I'd have swallowed it whole...” —Jack Ketchum, award-winning horror author, on Vacation

“Unstoppable... undeniable... un-put-down-able... Matthew Costello's Vacation is a hybrid horror/action/SF classic! Working at the height of his powers, Costello crafts a lean, terse, terrifying juggernaut of a book, which blends the minimalist punch of James Ellroy with the ravenous blitzkrieg of Danny Boyle's fleet-footed zombies in 28 Days Later. Set aside several uninterrupted hours, because once you crack this open you're going to be sprinting breathlessly to the last page. Highest recommendation!” —Jay Bonansinga, National Best-selling co-author of The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor, Frozen, and The Sinking of the Eastland

“Truly epic in scope, this astounding science-fiction/horror hybrid has ‘Soon to be a Major Motion Picture' written all over it.” —Bentley Little, Stoker Award-winning author of The Store, on Vacation

“Not since Matheson's I Am Legend has there been such a cool twist on the horror/thriller genre. Matt Costello gives us a fast paced and violent glimpse of a terrifying near-future through the eyes of an ordinary family. Just when I thought it was safe to go on Vacation…” —Brian Yuzna, writer/director of Bride of Re-Animator, on Vacation

Vacation is a tense, visceral trip through a violent, unraveling world, and a portrait of hope in a hopeless time. Matthew Costello has painted a breathless nightmare that is slick, compelling, and impossible to put down.” —Christopher Golden

“Costello offers a terrifying view into a dystopian future and a perhaps even more frightening look at the baser side of humanity. The cracking pace makes this a perfect choice for horror fans who want to be kept up late reading.” —ALA's Booklist on Vacation

“Patrolman Jack Murphy, forced to leave a besieged New York City where he battles feral cannibals, gathers his family and heads for the hills in this tense apocalyptic thriller.” —Publishers Weekly on Vacation

Library Journal
Police officer Jack Murphy sacrificed his life so his family could escape from what should have been a peaceful vacation away from turmoil. Now, his wife, Christie, and children, Kate and Simon, have nowhere to go but home to New York. However, home may no longer be safe from the Can Heads, humans who have become zombielike creatures. In this follow-up to Costello's previous novel, Vacation, communication networks have broken down, electricity is unreliable, and even the military does not provide much protection. While the characters hope that someday the government will discover what causes some people to become Can Heads, until then the Murphys are simply searching for someplace safe. VERDICT Costello creates a sense of urgency and fatigue as Christie tries to protect her family. He wastes no time with extraneous detail but keeps the pages turning with action and emotion that rings true. Readers need not have read the previous book, as this one works well by itself, but those who enjoy it will probably turn to more from the author.—Amanda Scott, Cambridge Springs P.L., PA

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
6.50(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.30(d)

Related Subjects

Read an Excerpt


A Gate


Christie stopped. Her hands locked on the steering wheel, like they had been for the past few hours.

Though she felt so achy, a fatigue deeper than anything she had even felt before, her eyes were open wide, her breathing fast.

She kept staring at the gate ahead, linked to the twelve-foot fence that cut off the Northway from the rural mountainous Adirondacks it cut through.

She thought: Where is he?

The goddamn guard. To let us in, open the goddamn—


Kate. Her voice quiet, hollow. Because she didn’t want to awaken her brother? Or because that was the only voice she had now, could possibly ever have after the night they had been through?

After everything that happened.

Christie struggled to push that thought away. With all its images of the events of the past day.

What had happened. What had been lost. What was now changed for them forever.

“Mom. What’s wrong?”

Christie wanted to turn back to her, turn to her daughter and answer.

But she didn’t trust herself to do that. Not to look into those eyes now. Not when eventually there’d be so many questions, and such terrible answers.

Christie told herself … I can’t look at her right now.

Can’t risk that I’ll start crying again.

Not for the first time this night … she ordered herself to hold it together.

As if by merely thinking the words would have some effect.

“Kate, I don’t know. There should be someone here. To let us in.”

Christie nodded as she said this. A perfectly sensible sentence. Said in a steady, rational voice. A reassuring voice, she hoped, even though something seemed wrong here.

And if there was something she knew now … when something seemed wrong, it most certainly could be wrong in ways that defied human imagination.

“Then…” Kate started, a hesitation, maybe thinking she shouldn’t ask any questions. Not now. Not yet.

“Where’s the guard? Why is there no one here?” Kate’s voice had lost some of the sleepy hollowness, raising just a notch in volume, tone. Concern. After what they’d been through, Kate had every reason to be worried at every moment, at everything.

After all …

After all …

It wasn’t too long ago that both kids had been screaming, that there was so much gunfire, and blood, when even Kate had to shoot a gun.

Her sweet girl, her firstborn, forced to shoot, to actually kill one of them and then watch it fall dead at her feet.

She can never be the same, Christie thought.

“Maybe he’s asleep. Maybe—I dunno, Kate … maybe I should blow the horn.”

“No,” Kate said. Then: “Don’t make noise. It’s still dark.”

Christie nodded, suddenly aware of the stupidity of her idea and of the newfound wisdom of her daughter.

A wisdom born of terror and loss.

She looked in the rearview mirror. She couldn’t see Kate in it, but she did see the shadow of Simon’s face, no pools of reflected light coming from his eyes still—thankfully—shut tight.

Then, with the car horn removed from the options, Kate said: “What are we going to do?”


That’s it now, isn’t it? We. Because we’re in this together.

“Maybe—just wait a bit.”

But again, as the words escaped, Christie immediately knew that that was a bad idea. To sit here, like bait. Waiting until something noticed and came to investigate.

No—sooner or later—she’d have to do something.

Please, she begged something, somewhere.

For what seemed like eternal moments, she sat there, hands feebly locked on the steering wheel, both she and Kate silent, with only the sound of the car’s motor, this car that wasn’t theirs, the hum unfamiliar.

A car the belonged to a family now dead.


Another thought to be pushed away.

And then—from within the white light of the booth of the gate, a head popped up, slowly, eyes easily as wide as Christie’s, the head rising like a human periscope.

As if it might have to duck a bullet. Or a rock.

Until the man inside was fully standing.

The gatekeeper.

The man who controlled the fence.

Standing there, looking at Christie, the car.

C’mon, she thought.

Open the gate.

For the moment, the man did nothing.

*   *   *

The man kept staring at Christie as if he could stare at her long enough and make her drive away.

Christie looked down to the headlight controls, and gave it a pull, flashing the light. Then again and again, and now the man looked away. She watched him look around. The sky beginning to brighten to the east, still a deep purple darkness to the west.

A thought came to Christie, one she wished she hadn’t had.

Something happened. Something happened here; the man saw something and now—God—now he’s scared.

And then:

Maybe I should ram the gate. Just floor the goddamn accelerator and blow right through the gate.

But was that even possible?

Then finally the man turned to the door of the small booth beside the gate. He walked out, his head still looking around. Christie had the car heater on, but she could see from the condensation on the front and back windows that it was chilly out. Fall comes early to the mountains.

The man’s expression didn’t change as he walked up to the car window. Christie hit a button and the driver’s side window slid all the way down. The cool air rushed into the car as if eager to escape the outside.

It seemed as though the gatekeeper, wearing his Highway Authority shirt and faded jeans, was waiting for her to begin the conversation.

“Can you … open the gate?”

She resisted the temptation to say goddamned, or fucking, or some other word that would put emphasis on her desire to get the hell off this country road and onto the safe highway.

Another thought … safe highway?

Safer maybe. But safe?

The man licked his lips. Another darting glance left and right.

“I need to see your papers.” His voice cracked as though he hadn’t said any words for a long time. He cleared his throat, and squinted.

Bundle of nerves.

Christie opened her mouth.

She hadn’t thought about the papers. They were in their car. With Jack. Forgotten.

Jack, who always thinks of everything. Somehow, in his plan to get them out of Paterville Camp, he forgot.

And he thinks of everything. How could—


He thought of everything …

When he was alive.

The papers permitting them to use the highway, with their approval to travel the protected highway from their home in Staten Island to the mountain resort of Paterville, were—were—



And Christie immediately felt a jab of fear.

Not having those papers … it could be a bad thing.

“I’m sorry. But we seem to have lost them. I can show—”

The man had already started shaking his head. In a moment, she was sure, he would start back for the booth, and Christie would be stuck there, waiting.

He allowed a few more words to escape his mouth.

“You need to have the papers. Can’t let you on the highway without—”

“Listen,” Christie said, cutting him off but also attempting to reach his wrist, for a pat, or perhaps to hold him there so he didn’t scurry back to the booth.

“I told you—we did have them. You can check. You still have computers, don’t you? You can—”

More head shakes. “They’ve been down. Hours. Something wrong. Downstate.”

“Right. But if you could check, I mean—”

Christie fumbled in her small blue rucksack that served as a purse for the paperwork for this trip, this supposed vacation.

She dug out her crimson wallet, now filled with mostly useless cards from companies that didn’t exist or banks that had vanished.

Gotta prune it, she told herself so many times but never did.

Like that world would never come back.

She went to the side pocket and pulled out her driver’s license. She quickly extended it to the man.

“Look. You can see. We—”

Christie nodded her head in the direction of her two kids in the back.

On cue, Kate said, “Mom? Mom, what’s wrong?”

Such good timing, Christie thought. Kate to the rescue.


We’re in this together. She knows that. The two of us. Can’t expect Simon to understand, to do anything. We’ll have to watch out for him, protect him.

The man hadn’t taken the license.

“Go on. Please. Take a look.” Still no snatch of the ID. Only the man’s turkey neck, turning left and right and left again.

Guy’s so damn scared standing out here.


Another lick of the lips. The man took the license.

He looked at it, too quickly, Christie thought, to take in the address … the location … Staten Island.

He handed the ID back, taking care not to get too close to the open window.

Is he afraid I’m going to grab him, pull him into the car?

Is that the world we live in now?

“You see. Staten Island, says it right there. And, and—” She fought to stay in control. So many times driving here she was so close to losing it. To begin sobbing, howling, the tears erupting.

And she had to tell herself—order herself—to hold it together. For Kate, for Simon, for sanity, for survival.

Finally—because it’s what Jack would have wanted.

It’s why he did … what he did.

In those moments after she knew Jack was gone, she had sobbed quietly at first, while the kids slept, then letting the grief come in waves, feeling as if her mourning would never end.

Now this first barrier, this first test …

To hold it together.

She looked up at the man as she took her license. “We’ve been through a lot. It’s been a bad night, back there.”

“I heard things happened,” the man said.

Was it just hell in the Paterville Camp tonight, or—like the trees turning a fiery orange, back when there used to be so many more deciduous trees—was the madness they faced in the camp spreading?

“We were nearly killed. And I have to get my … babies … home. You can understand that, can’t you?”

The man appeared unmoved. Jack had always said how important it was to have the right papers.

Then: “Okay. Since I can’t check. Since you have that there license.” He took a breath. “You look scared, lady.”

So do you, Christie thought.

Another turret head look around.

“I have to open the gate by hand. Got power in my booth but not the fence, not the gate.”

Now it was Christie’s turn to take a breath.

“That means the electric fence…”

The man nodded.

Christie felt her stomach drop.

“How far? I mean, how far down is the fence off?”

The man shook his head. “Dunno. So—be careful.”

He walked back to the booth, passing through it to a back door that led to the other side of the fence. He attached an iron bar to something that, in the scant light, looked like a kind of gear mechanism.

He began cranking, and the gate sluggishly began sliding to the right.

The cranks and car engine the only sounds in the chilly near-dawn.

Until Christie hit a button and the window rolled up.

And when just enough space had opened for her to get through, she hit the accelerator and flew past the man, still hunched over the crank, but already turning it in the other direction.

And she thought:

We’re that much closer to home.


Copyright © 2012 by Mathew Costello

Meet the Author

MATTHEW COSTELLO is an award-winning novelist, screenwriter and video game writer. His best-selling video games include The 7th Guest, Doom 3 and Pirates of the Caribbean. His horror novel, Beneath Still Waters, was filmed by Lionsgate. He also has written episodes and created TV formats for PBS, Disney, SyFy, and the BBC. He lives in Katonah, New York.

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Home 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
not nearly as good as Vacation
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is cool