Review of Stephen Kozeniewski’s “The Ghoul Archipelago”
The Ghoul Archipelago is a story that jumps around a bit at first, giving the reader the impression that the story is speeding ahead through time with each new batch of characters introduced. It does take a bit of reading before we get to see how all these loose strands the author is introducing weave together. The vast majority of the story takes place in the South Pacific in the first few weeks and months after the rise of the undead. We are introduced to an assortment of characters whose stories will intersect in time, and who are coming to grips with the end of the world in their own various ways.
Reverend Sonntag, leader of a group of missionaries, sees the rising of the dead as a sort of second coming-the transition to the next world, with the undead as something we should either worship or have the desire to become. Rand Bergeron, a billionaire behind an extremely successful virtual reality sex device, sees business opportunities to be developed with the few select societies in the South Pacific that haven’t been annihilated by the undead. “Howling Mad” Martigan and his crew of smugglers are simply trying to survive the pirates who’ve found a way to use the undead to their own advantage while at the same time getting their cargo to the ruthless gangster who they are sure has survived the end of the world and who will destroy them if he doesn’t get what he is promised. Surviving members of the U.S. Navy and Marines, led by a power hungry politician who claims he is now the President of what remains of the United States, have their own designs on taking over the region where the story takes place.
The reader is given bits and pieces of the various character’s tales at first until their paths begin to intersect. There is no main character here. Instead, it is a rather large ensemble with a few key players who the author does a strong job of developing into anti-heroes and villains. Sonntag’s zealotry, Bergeron’s greed, and the military’s quest for control and order clash significantly with Martigan and his crew of quarrelsome crewmembers and a stowaway with an intriguing side story. Outside of a few members of Martigan’s crew and a hard luck survivor who goes by the name of Tuan Jim, many of the characters here aren’t very likable and it is hard to say that anyone is a real hero, though the crew of smugglers, who go from one living or undead mishap to the next, grow on the reader as they suffer through one unbearable travail after another. In particular, Butch, the stowaway, and Hannibal Mo, the chief engineer, are the characters who I found myself rooting for the most.
This is a well told tale despite its slow start, with some unique game changers for the zombie sub-genre. Bergeron’s experimental approach when it comes to utilizing his virtual reality technology with the undead is something that everyone seems to want to take advantage of, in ways both repulsive and terrifying. The undead are, on the surface, fairly traditional, though with the advent of this new technology, they are taken in some very new and disconcerting directions by the author.
Overall, a very solid entry into the zombie genre, with enough twists and new ideas to keep those who are looking for a new perspective on the classics to have fun with the story. The characters drive this one, and there are some good ones with some crackling dialog. A standalone novel, The Ghoul Archipelago is worth checking out for fans of adventure, horror, and of course, the undead.
The Ghoul Archipelago can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/THE-GHOUL-ARCHIPELAGO-Zombie-Novel-ebook/dp/B00FTP5URO/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top