Writer of Horror Fiction

Review of Vincenzo Bilof’s “The Queen of the Dead: Zombie Ascension Book 2”

The Queen of the Dead: Zombie Ascension picks up where Necropolis Now, the first book in the series, left off.  The various surviving characters are trapped in Detroit and are mostly making their way to a local military air base after the events that unfolded at the mental institution at the end of the last book.  The core players remain in the tale, but the author, much like he did in the first book, adds a few secondary characters who play a variety of roles that intertwine with the main cast.  Vega, the female mercenary whose job in the first book was to capture Jim Traverse, a serial killer with a plan to end the world, remains focused on her task, though it seems that her reasoning is less about finishing the job and more about doing what both comes naturally to her and is all she knows: being a soldier for hire.  Especially since there is little else to do in a world that is dead or dying all around her.  Vincent, the gang banger from the first book, gives her a reason to carry on.  They share similarities as characters-both are professionals who do what it takes to survive and to get the job done in their own ways.  They both have regrets and far too many scars to mention.  Griggs, the ex-cop and pornographer, seems to be enjoying the apocalypse and much like Traverse, has plans for Mina, his girlfriend who is likely the cause for the zombie apocalypse due to her cannibalistic tendencies and mysterious, supernatural past.

Several new characters enter the fray to varying extents.  Father Joe is a priest trying to save who he can while strangely being capable of not raising the interest of the undead around him.  Rose is an assassin who has been sent in after Traverse, even though her talents lean more toward seduction versus combat.  Jack is a poor schlep who plays in a band with his brother, who wants to see the world burn and has commanded Jack to join him in slaughtering as many people and zombies as possible before they both get torn to pieces.  There are a few other secondary characters, each with their own unique story to tell.  The author develops each of them enough to give us something to latch on to, though some fade into non-existence with little to show for having existed in the first place.

This is a supernatural thriller, or as close to that as possible without being obvious.  It isn’t your traditional zombie apocalypse tale though there are elements it shares with those stories.  The motivation of many, if not most of these characters, is not survival.  It is annihilation for some-the destruction of the human race as a goal.  For others, it seems that perpetual motion is their only goal-moving forward because it is all they can do while the world around them spins out of control.  Through the power Mina has as some sort of herald of doom makes her a monster, she is also as innocent as a child, manipulated by the men in her life.  Both Traverse and Griggs see her as a way to obliterate everything in their paths, though they have very different designs on why they would do that.

Vincenzo Bilof has a lyrical way of writing about gore and his characters.  Certainly, there is no doubt that not everyone will like his penchant for simile and metaphor at most every turn, but there is a fluidity to his writing that makes this dark, dim, gruesome world he has crafted poetic.  His story, though it will come to a conclusion (more than likely) with the third and final book, isn’t about a beginning or an end.  It is definitely about the journey.  The zombies are there, in the background, entering the fray as needed, but it is the characters, with their internal and external struggles, that always remain top of mind here.  This could be a journey through hell, like Dante’s Inferno-one test after another for the main characters to face and either overcome or to fail at…though it is hard at times (many times) to decipher whether they have failed or succeeded at any of them.  Perhaps Father Joe could be defined as a hero, though one with as many dark spots on his soul as many others in the book.  Beyond him, there are heroic elements in several of the characters but villainous ones as well.  I remarked in my review of the first book that I didn’t like most of the characters-not as a criticism but an assessment of who they were as human beings.  I have grown more attached to a couple of the original characters and dislike some with an even more fervent passion.  At the same time, I welcomed most of the new characters with an appreciation for what they have added to this story.  Except perhaps for the insane general, who was, overall, a nuisance in my humble opinion.  The rest have given the story new flavor and balance to offset the grim motivations of some of the others.

The Zombie Ascension series qualifies as a fairly unique entry into the zompoc subgenre despite not meddling too much with the undead themselves.  Its supernatural slant will not appeal to all zombie purists though it is, thus far, a well thought out mythology that has me intrigued for more answers as to the ‘why’s and how’s’ of Mina’s power and what happened to Traverse on his mission to Egypt.  This is the third book of the author’s that I have read and his voice has grown stronger with each book.  He has me hooked with both his writing style and the story he is telling here and I look forward to checking out the third book in the trilogy.

The Queen of the Dead: Zombie Ascension can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/The-Queen-Dead-ZOMBIE-ASCENSION-ebook/dp/B00ET0EJJK/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1385424667&sr=8-1&keywords=vincenzo+bilof

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