Review of Jessica Meigs’ “The Becoming”
The Becoming tells the tale of three people in the early days of the zombie apocalypse. Brandt is a military man who flees Atlanta not long after the start of the Michaluk virus. He was at the epicenter, having volunteered to be one of the guards at the CDC when the plague first broke free from one of the labs. As the city crumbles and the dead begin to rise, he heads west to Alabama while the virus spreads further out from the city at the same time. Ethan and Cade, two friends living in Memphis, are swept up in the story not long after as the virus plows through the entire southeastern United States. Ethan is a Memphis police officer who just got promoted while Cade is his next door neighbor and a former member of the Israeli Defense Force, or IDF, who has immigrated to the United States. Things hit the fan pretty fast in this tale, with the bulk of the early story dealing with Ethan and Cade coping with their first horrific exposure to the virus and then hitting the road, trying to figure out how to survive as everyone around them turns into flesh eating monsters. They hook up with Brandt while trying to see if Ethan’s mother is still alive in her small Alabama town, and together the three decide to head back west, toward Mississippi and with the hope of outrunning the fast moving virus. Naturally, there are interpersonal conflicts between the three, and they also end up meeting a few other survivors that add to the intense interpersonal relationships. This tale is the first of what I believe is a trilogy, and focuses quite well on the key things that tend to work well in zombie apocalypse novels: strong characters, lots of action, and a healthy dose of gore. It doesn’t break new ground in the zombie genre, but while stories like that are always welcome, it isn’t necessary when a story is filled with compelling characters and a solid plot.
This story has both of those, and its focus on the three main characters serves it well. They are well drawn and fit well into the survivor roles with their skills and training in the military and police force. But despite those talents, they are just as human as anyone else and coping with such incredible tragedy is quite difficult for them. The good, the bad, and the ugly of their personalities rear their heads when they are dealing with one another, the undead, and the other survivors that appear in this story. While the characters each ticked me off in turn and made me want to slap each one of them for acting the way they do, they were all also trying to do their best to remain human and doing what they can to help each other out, giving me reason to like them at the same time. Their reactions to the tragedies that unfold around them were real for the most part, though a couple of instances bothered me: Cade’s overall reaction to what happens to her niece and Ethan’s lack of urgency in getting to his wife-when they are first separated and later on in the story, when he wants to return to Memphis. Even with those minor complaints, the characters have a realness to them that helped me feel comfortable rooting for them to survive.
Overall, the writing in The Becoming is solid and the editing is excellent. The author tended to use eye color a bit much to reference particular characters and also used the word ‘smirk’ a lot, but even with those quibbles, it was clear that she is a talented writer who should continue to get better the more she puts pen to paper. I look forward to seeing what Ms. Meigs comes up with next for the compelling characters she’s created in this story.
You can find The Becoming here: http://www.amazon.com/Becoming-Jessica-Meigs/dp/1934861855/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1326433053&sr=8-2