Review of Evan Ramspott’s “Plagued: The Midamerica Zombie Half-Breed Experiment”
Plagued: The Midamerica Zombie Half-Breed Experiment is a mouthful of a name for a novella written by Evan Ramspott. The story introduces us to Tom and Gary, brothers who have come to the town of Biter Hill, one of the few locations within the Plagued States where the zombie slave trade occurs, to search out records on their lost sister, Larissa, who was infected ten years earlier and who may have come through the town as a slave at one point. Thorough records are kept on the zombies who pass through and they have been ordered by their father, a powerful senator, to find her. They return to this same place, year in and year out, in an effort to fulfill their father’s wishes.
Tom feels guilt for what happened to Larissa, since she was in his care when she was bitten. But Tom was twelve at the time, and had no experience with dealing with zombies. He struggles with the idea that he shouldn’t be held responsible, but feels guilty nonetheless. It doesn’t help that his father and brother both blame him, in their own particular ways, for what happened.
Tom comes across a half-breed zombie in a slaver’s cage while in Biter’s Hill. She looks like a normal uninfected human. There are claims that half-breeds are creatures born of a human who is infected while pregnant, some other, unknown reason for their existence seems more likely. Though she is savage, there is a connection between the creature and Tom. She also seems rather interested in the picture of his sister when she sees it.
Tom is separated from his brother when the prison in Biter Hill maintaining most of the zombies who are being held for the slave trade has a breakout. Tom has to flee with several zombie hunters and slave traders at that point; including the one who has the half-breed who Tom has discovered is named Penelope. Together, they must enter into the wastelands in an effort to find their way to another place of safety. Tom suspects that Penelope knows something about his missing sister and uses his clout as a senator’s son to get the ragged band of survivors to head to a place where he believes Larissa have migrated to in the decade since she’d turned with the promise of rescue and wealth if they do. And he is going to need Penelope’s help to find her.
Plagued is definitely a different type of zombie apocalypse tale. It is focused on Tom’s personal journey and the relationship he forms with Penelope along the way. The craggy old slave trader Peske was probably my favorite character though, as someone who is gruff and seemingly uncaring about anyone else, he does what it takes to keep everyone alive and seems to have a soft spot for his half-breed who he insists isn’t for sale. Tom is well developed as a character and Penelope, as a confused creature of two worlds generates both intrigue and sympathy.
It’s clear that this will be the first of perhaps a series of zombie stories set in this world, and this is a positive start. The zombies themselves are fairly Romero-esque and traditional, but the introduction of half-breeds other factors like potential cures and being able to eliminate a zombie’s ability to spread infection once they are captured adds some unique elements to this saga. This is a quick read and the world the author created, long past the initial terrifying days of the zompcalypse, had an air of believability to it as the survivors adapt and cope with the fact that the undead are most likely a permanent fixture in their universe.
Plagued: The Midamerica Zombie Half-Breed Experiment can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Plagued-Midamerica-Half-Breed-Experiment-America-ebook/dp/B00DTCT26O/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top