Review of Patrick and Chris William’s “Dead Meat”
Dead Meat is a zombie apocalypse tale told from the perspective of Gavin, a young man living in River’s Edge when an outbreak of what the media claims is rabies spread by rats has already overtaken the town. The military has been called in and at the start of the story it’s clear that this is no normal case of rabies. Gavin meets Benny, who is hiding out on the roof of a convenience store, a couple of days into the mess the ‘bees’ (what Gavin dubs the undead/biters, because they tend to swarm together when they attack) have created. Together, they try to make their way to Gavin’s sister and parents who live in another town, but naturally there are a tremendous amount of obstacles in their way, including the military, who are exterminating the living along with the undead with extreme prejudice in an attempt to control the plague.
While this story is in the traditional Romero mold with slow moving undead, this first person, present tense tale takes a different tact than many stories I’ve seen. You would expect this story to be about survival, which it is, and about dealing with human drama, which it also is about, but it really burrows down deep into issues of trust and how being a survivor changes a person much more than most. We go deep into Gavin’s paranoia and trust issues, as well as how tortured he is by what he is forced to witness and do to stay alive. While the story is about Gavin, it is Benny’s tale too, along with Rickett, an old recluse they happen upon, and Henry (Henrietta) a girl they also find during their trip. But the dynamic between Gavin and Benny is the highlight here-how difficult and ugly it is for them to gain one another’s trust and yet still not trust each other, how it seems that they’re at each other’s throats most of the time while still having to rely upon one another. It is a complex relationship and one that I was intrigued by from start to finish. The key element with this story is how each of the characters feels real, not limiting stereotypes with no depth, or even a meager attempt at giving them depth. Gavin is the main character but that doesn’t make him extremely the hero of the tale-his paranoia tends to get annoying at points, as does his mistrust of almost everyone around him. Benny seems to be an unapologetic sociopath at times, while at other times it’s clear that he hasn’t lost his humanity despite all the inhumane things he has been forced to do and seems to revel in. This story is as much a character study of these two as it is a saga of the zombie apocalypse. We see it all through Gavin’s eyes and so the outside elements are limited-we know nothing of the military except for his limited perspective, nothing about what is going on outside of narrow sphere of his experiences, and as such a lot of minor details slip to the wayside while the dynamics of his relationship with Benny, Rickett, and Henry are explored in tremendous detail.
Since I tend to favor zombie tales that devote most of their energy to the human relationships in them and how people are twisted and changed in a survivor tale, I found this story to be a highly entertaining entry into the zombieverse. It also has plenty of violence and action to spread around, making this something for pretty much all zombie fans to enjoy.
Dead Meat can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Dead-Meat-Patrick-Williams/dp/1618680242/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1339033247&sr=8-1