Review of “Rise” by Gareth Wood
Rise was written as a blog online originally and as the author mentions in the prolog, he wrote it as the days passed in 2004-2005 when the story takes place. He paid attention to the weather patterns, studied the environments he was leading his characters through, etc. So essentially, this book was fairly early to the zombie writing party-before the onslaught of books started showing up in places like Amazon and on bookshelves at bookstores. Of course, with its introduction via Permuted Press to a wider audience in 2012, it comes during the thick of things-when journal type tales of the apocalypse have been done on a regular basis over the past six or so years, along with a wide array of other first person and third person zombie sagas. Credit to the author for crafting this piece before so many others had taken a swipe at the genre-I wish I had read it when it had originally come out because I am sure it would have felt truly fresh and new at that time.
Like other journal format tales, this story goes through the daily struggles of a survivor (this time a man named Brian who lives in western Canada) from just before until almost a year after the dead have risen. The journey we are treated to takes us on a wandering path where Brian and his sister meet up with other survivors, avoid the undead, try to gather supplies, avoid other desperate humans, interact with the military, go on rescue missions, and just try to cope with a world turned upside down. Journal writing gives an author an opportunity to detail out all the minor details that many other tales would leave out simply because they tend to focus on the elements that move the story forward at every step of the way. Journals do this too, but the whole idea seems to more or less be focused on giving you a real flavor of how people cope, which requires getting down to the nitty gritty.
Most of my criticisms of this tale would stem from the journal format and not the author’s writing, which is solid and keeps things moving. One of the things that seem almost impossible to do with this format is allowing the reader to get into the moment with the characters on the page. This happens because there is virtually no dialogue-nothing that anchors the action and relationships in the present moment. Almost always, the story is being written a day, or even several days, after the events being chronicled have occurred. This author, like others, tends to announce critical details in the first sentence of every new entry, which allows you to know, in vague terms, what is about to happen on the next few pages of the story, and in the next few days of the lives of the characters. Journal entries lack tension, though they provide you with a detailed picture of events. This is the blessing and the curse of this writing format.
If there was a genuine criticism that I have for this tale, unrelated to the journal format, is the fact that the story seems to carry on beyond its natural ending point through several more adventures of the main character. My guess is that in the original writing of the blog, the author was trying to determine a stopping point and picked one at a place where there is a relative lull in action and perhaps when he grew tired with relating the saga. With that said, the story could have stopped much earlier, or could have carried on for months and even years beyond the point where things are concluded-through the course of the apocalypse. I suppose that is another challenge related to journaling; the days of your life are not set up in neat, tidy condensed tales that will fit perfectly into a book-like story. Instead, it moves on, with different story lines always happening and intertwining at all times. In essence, this story could have gone on for another hundred pages or more, and could have ended fifty plus pages earlier, with the same result.
I don’t intend for my criticism of the journal format to speak as a negative about the authors writing capability-he has written an entertaining story in a format that is challenging, to say the least. It kept me reading from start to finish and I was definitely entertained. Rise is a solid entry into the zombie genre, and I hope to see more (perhaps in another format) from this author.
Rise can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Rise-Gareth-Wood/dp/1618680102/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1332714817&sr=1-2