Review of David Dunwoody’s “Empire’s End”
I read David Dunwoody’s Empire nearly three years ago, and it has stuck with me as one of the standouts in zombie fiction because of its unique approach to the genre. Dave wrote a book filled with an element that seems to make perfect sense although no one that I am aware of has utilized it before or since. The Grim Reaper, Death, decides to take a stand against the undead, tired and angered by their defiance to the natural order of things. It is his job to transport those from this life into the next, and the undead resist that. So in Empire, death relinquished his responsibilities and became something not quite human, but not quite immortal. With his scythe, he laid waste to the undead. At the same time, he saved a little girl named Lily, who made him feel something human, something he’d never felt before: love.
Empire’s End continues the story of Death’s journey, along with that of Vorhees, the cop that was one of the last survivors out of Jefferson Harbor, Louisiana, a town in the badlands of the United States. Essentially, outside of the “Great Cities” to the north, which hide behind massive walls, the rest of the country is the badlands. A century has passed since the plague that released the zombie plague upon mankind swept the world. Before that, there were sources of power on this planet that allowed the dead to rise. They could not infect the living, just devour them, at least until the United States Government decided to tamper with this supernatural power. It was turned into a virus that could infect others and the rest, as they say, is history.
Much of Empire’s End takes place within one of the cities inside the walls that keep the undead out. Lily and Vorhees both are there now, and trying to adapt to a life of civility, or whatever approximates civility in this new world where the populous is convinced they are safe from the dangers beyond their gates. But while the undead are indeed not inside the walls, a group of traveling performers that have embraced the idea of an existence after life that is far more intoxicating, are building an army of the undead whose intent is to come north for a great feast of those hidden behind those walls.
Death, who has taken on the human name of Adam, is searching for Lily while he is being pursued by an undead vessel known as the Omega. I call it a vessel because this creature is filled with the vengeful spirits of many who Death has taken over the countless centuries where he fulfilled his duties. After having given up his mantle of responsibility, he has become vulnerable, and those who he sent to hell crave revenge.
Empire’s End is more than just a solid sequel to an excellent zombie novel; it surpasses its predecessor with a deeper look into a world filled with dark magic and vivid characters, both living and dead. Dunwoody somehow manages to make Death a sympathetic character and his zombies are some of the scariest around.
As an added bonus, at the end of the book the reader gets “Grinning Samuel” and “AfterDead”, two additional stories that explain the origin of the undead plague. I had read Grinning Samuel before, but AfterDead was new to me, and a very intriguing story that gives the reader a genuine understanding of how this all came about.
You can find Empire’s End here: http://www.amazon.com/Empires-End-ebook/dp/B004W9BXJW/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&s=digital-text&qid=1303068127&sr=1-4