Writer of Horror Fiction

Archive for March, 2014

Review of Sean Schubert’s “Containment (Alaskan Undead Apocalypse Book 2)

Containment (Alaskan Undead Apocalypse Book 2) is the sequel to Infection, the first book in this trilogy, which will be completed with Mitigation, which has already been released.  The author returns to where he left off, with the two bands of survivors who were racing against death through the first few days and weeks after the first zombie rose up combining forces and doing whatever they can to find and to maintain a safe haven.  We are also introduced briefly to a military leader and the failed efforts to prevent the undead from crossing a bridge north of Anchorage, granting the monsters access to the rest of the vast state.

Neil, who led one of the groups in the first book, takes on the mantle of leadership in this book, while Dr. Caldwell, who was the leader of the other group, stepping aside and becoming more of a consultant, or moral guide for Neil.  As this new entity travels in and around Anchorage, their numbers grow and diminish thanks to other survivors they happen across and the hordes of undead they must face off against.  Of course, the newcomers and old members of the team alike add conflict and provide new challenges for Neil and the others.  Officer Malachi Ivanoff, the loose cannon police officer in the first book, finds a new friend in one of the newcomers the group comes across, and ample reasons to continue down his path of destruction and mayhem.  Other relationships hinted at being formed in the first book continue to grow and face challenges.  In general, Neil’s group, like a living organism, adapts and modifies itself to suit its challenging environment.

While the objective, as is the case in most apocalyptic tales, is survival, the story meanders for the most part, with no specific objective outside of finding food, water, and a safe haven.  The author, to his credit, makes Alaska-both Anchorage and the surrounding natural beauty, play a far more prominent role here than in the first book.  In Infection, the city of Anchorage had the feel of Any Town, USA.  There was nothing unique about this environment the undead had invaded.  Containment shares more of the unique flavor of the largest and northern-most state in the U.S., especially when the survivors step outside the confines of Anchorage and are forced to wander a bit into the wilderness.  The isolation of Alaska is both a blessing and a curse.  While the military has failed to contain the undead in the Anchorage area, there is no hint at outside intervention, either from Canada or the rest of the United States, despite the fact that the story takes place several weeks after Anchorage has been annihilated by the undead.  The characters conjecture about where the military might have made a stand and where potential larger bands of refugees might be located, but there are few tangible hints as to what is happening in the wider world around them.  It would be safe to guess that the third book in the trilogy should provide greater insight into the global picture though it seems there should have been more here.

The characters in Containment, as was the case in Infection, are well developed.  We get to know the original characters even better and the same treatment occurs with some of the new people with whom they cross paths.  Unfortunately, the level of introspection each character goes through slows this novel down a great deal in multiple places.  The action often comes to a screeching halt while either a character ponders the meaning of what is happening, a bit of their history is revealed, or in the case of a few devious characters, what they are plotting.  Still, this is a classic tale of survival in the undead apocalypse and the reader is given the opportunity to get to know these characters in depth and detail that has strong appeal.

Containment, though slow at points and with a plot that meanders a bit, provides the reader with a set of characters that are well-rounded and have a great deal of depth.  Neil and the rest of the group are easy to identify with-they are not heroes or skilled survivalists but ordinary folk trying to find their place in a world filled with the undead. It will be interesting to see what happens to them in the conclusion of this trilogy.   

Containment (Alaskan Undead Apocalypse Book 2) can be found here:  http://www.amazon.com/Containment-Alaskan-Undead-Apocalypse-Book/dp/161868048X/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1395493625&sr=8-2

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Review of P.A. Douglas’s “The Remnant: Into The Collision”

The Remnant: Into The Collision thrusts the reader right into the madness of what the universe has become for Byron Russo, a working class grunt who, like everyone else, is waiting for the world to end.  When a man comes crashing through his living room window and wants to kill him for no better reason than to see what it feels like, it is the wakeup call Byron needs after spending a couple of weeks sitting on the couch, watching and waiting for the meteors to come that may spell the end of the all life on earth.

At first, the concept here seemed similar to that of the movie “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.”  Byron is a down on his luck slob who lost his wife and his little daughter and needs to snap out of the funk that has wrapped itself around him, not only for the past two dazed weeks of his existence, but for most of it long before the world threatened to put an end to his miserable existence.  Of course, this being an apocalyptic novel with a far darker bent than the Steve Carrell movie, Byron’s shortened existence isn’t likely to be filled with romance and pleasant moments spent contemplating the sweetness of life.  That is made clear from the opening paragraph, when Byron is forced to defend himself and kill another human being so he can stay alive.  Thus begins his awakening into his stunning new reality.  It is one in which he realizes that he still wants to make a go of it and survive for as long as possible.  With this in mind, he makes his way to the local grocery store, where he witnesses more acts of human savagery as well as the same complacency he was guilty of just a few hours earlier.  He also stumbles across another like-minded survivor named C.J., a young man who looks and talks like a thug but is pretty normal, all things considered.  C.J. introduces Byron to the group he is with, who are looking for a place to escape the madness on the streets.  Byron, who had no more of a plan than to hunker down at the factory where he works, is joined by this group who seem pretty normal.  Of course, normal under life-threatening duress can get warped fairly quickly.  They make it to the factory, which makes scuba breathing gear and has been abandoned, like most work places, since the impending destruction of the planet was revealed.  It is the ideal place to set up shop and wait to see if the world will end when the meteors come.

It isn’t a spoiler to reveal that the meteors don’t destroy the world, but wreak havoc on the atmosphere when they crash into the moon instead, altering its orbit.  One of the side effects of its new trajectory is thinner oxygen.  While not immediately lethal, it does have some horrible side effects for those forced to breathe this new air.  This makes Byron and friend’s new factory home, with its amble scuba breathing devices, a very good place to hole up.

The Remnant: Into The Collision deals with the very human struggles the band of survivors must face, including coping with outsiders who will annihilate anyone who is capable (or incapable) of standing in their way.

While the background apocalypse in this story treads new ground, the saga of humans in conflict is very traditional and shares similarities to other novels in the genre.  The air they breathe becomes the monster at their doorstep rather than some slouching beast threatening to tear them limb from limb.  Its treachery is much more insidious and devious, slowly robbing those who have no breathing devices of their faculties and turning them into drooling automatons with sluggish minds and muted reactions to the world around them.  When the trap door that is civilization swings open and those who remain alive fall into what lies beneath, the truth of their nature is revealed.  For a few survivors, like Byron, whose past life is filled with regrets, this new world is ripe with opportunities for redemption.  For others, like Richard Perry, a National Guardsman, it is an opportunity to become as depraved and vile as his withered heart desires.

This is where this tale will divide its readership.  While Richard’s abhorrent behavior may be quite plausible given his circumstances and willingness to follow his most primitive urges, having them laid out on the page will not agree with everyone.  The abrasive nature of his and his men’s actions speak to the true depth of depravity humanity is capable of, while Byron’s efforts to become a better man demonstrates what we are all capable of, regardless of how harrowing the circumstances we find ourselves facing.

The Remnant: Into The Collision can be found here:  http://www.amazon.com/The-Remnant-Collision-P-A-Douglas-ebook/dp/B00IKMLEPA/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top