Writer of Horror Fiction

Review of Steven Pajak’s “Mad Swine: The Beginning”

Mad Swine: The Beginning is a first person zombie apocalypse tale that takes place during the initial days of infection and the downfall of civilization.  It begins in the city of Chicago and the moves out into the suburbs where the main character, a University Administrator and former military man, takes charge of the people in his neighborhood to defend against both the infected and the living.  The zombies in this tale are actually not the living dead, but more accurately infected/still living, though the author essentially turns them into zombies by applying the same rule as you have with undead: you can shoot them repeatedly, but unless you get them in the head, they won’t go down.  There is an interesting slant in that they still sleep, which makes for some interesting situations when the characters come across a few snoozing undead.

The story moves at a fast clip, with very little build up before the introduction of panic and mayhem enters the main character’s life after he has reported to work one morning.  The infected are fast movers, so the infection, which seems to come out of nowhere, spreads like wildfire and makes the first few chapters an adrenaline soaked nightmare for Matt, our main character.  It doesn’t take long for the reality of this uprising to hit home with personal loss which carries over for him as he manages to make it back home to the suburbs.  He discovers that several communities have banded together to protect one another from the “crazies”, as Matt has dubbed them, and given his military background he is called upon to take the lead in his own gated community.  Matt comes prepared, with a veritable arsenal and a brother who lives with him who also has military experience.  Together they take charge and plan for the well being and safety of their people.  Mad Swine: The Beginning takes place within the first few days after the apocalypse.  It reads fast and easy and while much of the zombie action takes place prior to Matt’s transition to suburban leader from urban refugee, the focus on human confrontations is a priority from then on.  I enjoyed some of the confrontations that offer up hints as to what is to be expected in the next book of the saga, including the clashes between the different neighborhoods and how they are forced to deal with one another.

Overall, this was a fun, entertaining zombie read.  It doesn’t necessarily bring much new to the table with the zombies or the setting, but the main character is solidly developed and his story made for an interesting ride.  While the book cuts off abruptly, the closing chapters set the stage for some potentially interesting developments in the second book of this saga.

I do my best to point out any concerns I have with each story I read and as is the case with every book, there were things I took exception to with Mad Swine.  My main concern here has to do with what I would dub the chaos and the calm.  By the chaos, I mean that the infection happens so quickly and spreads with such vigor that the world falls apart entirely around Matt in what seems like minutes.  Things are such a blur at first that there is virtually no appearance by either the police or military in this story.  The city falls to pieces almost immediately and the crazies rule the streets within hours.  And by the calm, I mean how dramatically different it is within the suburban conclaves where Matt and most of the other characters in this book live.  Everyone there seems to be on the same page, willing to fall in line with the new regime that Matt creates without questioning it or anything for that matter.  Certainly, there is conflict between different neighborhoods, but it is limited and (at least in this book) fairly civil, all things considered.  The transition from the chaos of the first part of the book to the calm of the latter portion is abrupt and would have made more sense had the chaos Matt sees in the city bled over into the ‘burbs a bit more.  While Matt, would seem like a natural choice as a leader for his neighborhood with his military experience and rather excessive arsenal, the fact that everyone within his gated community goes along with that decision without question or any who appears to be reluctant about such an idea seemed a stretch to me.

Despite this concern that I had with the story, it remains a solid, action filled apocalyptic saga with interesting characters and a storyline that has me intrigued and curious about what happens next.  I look forward to checking out the next book in the series when it becomes available.

Mad Swine: The Beginning can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Mad-Swine-Beginning-Steven-Pajak/dp/1618680013/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1338266426&sr=1-1

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