Review of D.S. Sager’s “Evil Vein: Dark Beginnings”
Evil Vein: Dark Beginnings is an apocalyptic origin tale that introduces the reader to a scientist bent on trying to give his terminally ill wife a new lease on life. When the lab he works for threatens to shut down and ruin his work, he decides that he will share his ‘Blue Gem Serum’ with his home town in Northern California. The serum allows for the genetic mutation of any life form it comes into contact with, making it stronger, more adaptable, and more intelligent and vicious. When the scientists dumps it into the local water supply, the crab population immediately undergoes a dramatic genetic transformation, turning them into a hybrid that looks like a cross between its predecessor and a scorpion, complete with a lethal sting that transforms its human victims into the living dead. The monsters become land dominant and start attacking the people in the town of Tylerton soon after.
The duel threat of the scrabions (as they are later dubbed) and the undead unleash an assault that is viewed through the eyes of multiple characters, some of which meet a very unfortunate end rather gruesomely and others who manage to survive the first waves of assault. This story takes place over a period of a day or so, with the town caught in the crossfire of an army of constantly adapting and cunning genetic mutations and its own transformed population of the living dead.
While the tale of how patient zero is exposed to whatever the cause of its own un-death is one that has been done before, it is far rarer to include another threat that is ends up being far greater danger to humanity than the undead. In fact, I would be hard pressed to describe this novel as a zombie apocalypse story, since it is in fact more of a genetic horror/sci-fi tale that happens to have zombies in it. The scrabions take over as the primary danger-the one that the military personnel trying to quarantine Tylerton struggle to deal with and that the CDC is hard pressed to find a way to stop or destroy. That this is the driving force behind this story might irritate any zombie purists out there, but the mixture of the two monsters is well done.
The ensemble cast caught inside Tylerton as it is torn apart is a mixed bunch, as is usually the case when an author introduces the reader to a platoon of characters. It was hard to keep track of all of them at first, at least until they started grouping up. With nearly five hundred pages to work with, the author doesn’t shirk at character development, though it slowed the pacing a bit at first. It took a bit for the momentum to build, but by the time I was a third of the way into the novel it had become one of those hard to put down thrill rides. The reader is provided with ample background on both those characters facing the threat of the undead and scrabions as well as the military leaders and members of the CDC trying to understand and contain the menace that has conquered Tylerton. Some characters were naturally more compelling than others, while a select few were downright annoying. It is tough to juggle so many different actors crossing the stage with their stories being interwoven in bits and pieces until they join forces and their stories coalesce. In the end, the author does a relatively solid job of herding them all in the right direction.
The depth of detail (on the genetic mutations, the town, and the characters) the author provides in this novel is both its blessing and its curse. While it may seem like a stretch that a genetically mutated crab’s bite causes zombism, the science and the scrabions ability to adapt to its environment and perceived threats are intriguing and the implications terrifying; not only for this story, but for our innate fear of such dabbling by modern science. What sort of horrors will geneticists create in the name of progress? Unfortunately, the zombies are left to suffer in many ways-they seem only a moderate threat when compared to the scrabions, who continue to adapt to any form of attack unleashed on them-making themselves stronger and resistant to things like fire and other forms of assault. They are cunning, work like a colony of ants to go after their objectives, and seem for all intents and purposes unstoppable. Never would I have thought that a cross between a crab and scorpion could be this scary.
The story is solid with some entertaining twists and turns. The characters, for the most part, are believable and diverse. Providing the viewpoint of the General in charge of maintaining the battle lines around Tylerton was an added bonus that gave a unique perspective. In many ways, his story was more intriguing and impactful than that of the survivors, and will lead to some compelling storylines in the sequel. The duel threat of genetic mutations and the undead gives this book its own flavor that sets it apart from the pack.
Evil Vein: Dark Beginnings can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Evil-Vein-Dark-Beginnings-Volume/dp/1618681869/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1391730659&sr=8-1