Darpocalypse, the second book in The Living Dead Series by Joseph Souza, jumps ahead from the prior book in time and introduces us to mostly brand new characters who did not appear in the prior novel. Dar, the suicidal teenager, is the only one who remains. She has become the merciless leader of the Boston Commons compound where a group of survivors live thanks to her quick thinking in urging a city engineer to fence the area in before the surge of undead swept over the city. Gritz, a Delta Force colonel, is the lone survivor in a failed mission to stop a nuclear power plant from going critical as the undead overwhelmed the area. He has been put on a new mission by the President to get to Boston to find the “ghost” that is in the compound and bring them back to Washington DC to save the city from annihilation. Annabelle is a washed up rock star performing for Dar on stage in Boston to entertain the survivors, and also goes out into the dead city to gather supplies because she is immune to the infection and more importantly, is a ghost who can walk among them. Mike Brabas is a man on death row waiting to be executed until the dead rise, and then accidentally discovers that he too is a ghost. Now his delusions of grandeur and terroristic tendencies have him pointed toward Washington D.C. with every intention of creating a new world order with him as its leader.
Darpocalypse is a total shift from the first book in this series. It moves from first person to third and many of the things that happened and were significant elements of the first book have been pushed aside. No longer do any infected animals appear here, although the infected humans still go through a transformation where they appear to have transcended into some sort of state of grace momentarily, speaking about the chosen or regrets they had in life, before transforming yet again into the ravenous monsters that zombie fans know and love. The nuclear fallout pushing south from Maine appears to have had no impact on Boston either. Dar still has visions of heading west to find her father and the first scroll-the journal her uncle wrote that might have the scientific information to save everyone who remains, though that is secondary to her efforts to rule what remains of Boston with an iron fist. Thom, her father and narrator from the first book, has supposedly set up camp out in Washington State with a ghost of his own, though he is not a part of this book at all.
There were few redeemable characters in the first book except for some secondary ones. This book also provides us with its share of the despicable, but mixed among them are far more likable people, which made it easier for me to root for someone. In the first book, I found that very hard to do. Annabelle, the former drug addled and suicidal ghost of Boston has found life in this deadly world, with her new found talent that allows her to hunt for supplies and be Dar’s right hand helping the people of Boston. She cares for everyone and wants nothing more than to insure the survival of the camp. Colonel Gritz is a bit too much of a super soldier-the perfect human weapon-but he is also someone who wants to do what he can to insure both the survival of the human race and save his country from the brink of annihilation. Of course, Brabas is a despicable sociopath through and through, but the one character who I truly despised in this story was Dar. I loathed her in the first book and didn’t think it possible increase my aversion to her any further, but the author somehow managed to turn up her loathsomeness to an eleven. To be fair, as I mentioned in my review of the first novel, there is nothing wrong with despicable characters. This is no indictment to either what the author has written or the story itself. Admittedly, Dar in her cruel and disturbing way, is doing what she believes necessary to keep the people she is responsible for safe. But in doing so, she is far closer in personality to most villains that live in tales of apocalyptic despair than any sort of hero. She throws anyone who defies her into a pit filled with zombies to fight for their lives, along with anyone who enters her stronghold-they must all prove they can survive against the undead. She picks and chooses who lives, and cows anyone who even looks at her cross-eyed into complete and utter submission. Slivers of humanity sneak through on occasion-with her young son and when she reveals her desire to keep the whole of her community safe, but that only assures the reader that she is not some sort of demon, but still a human being. A vile, hate-filled, wretched human being who is willing to sacrifice anyone who will stand in her way, which she believes is the only way to keep others safe. Add to this the inexplicable fact that everyone, and I do mean everyone, bows down before her in a state of awe and fear when she is clearly some sort of megalomaniac who should be put down like a rabid dog makes her an even more disconcerting character.
Darpocalypse is a solidly told story that veers closer to the traditional zompoc tale than its predecessor, though it retains a few select supernatural elements that insure it stands apart from the rest. Yes, the author has created perhaps one of the most despicable heroes in any zompoc book I have ever read, but he has wrapped an intriguing story around her that compels me to pick up the third book to see how this wild, intriguing saga concludes. And if I wish for Dar’s ugly, brutal demise the entire time I am reading it, so be it.
Darpocalypse can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Darpocalypse-The-Living-Dead-Volume/dp/1618680838/ref=tmm_pap_title_0
The King of Clayfield introduces us to a man who is the curator of a small museum in the town of Clayfield, Kentucky the day the Canton B virus comes to town. The virus essentially fries the brain of people affected by it, turning them into what amounts to zombies. But unlike most zombie apocalypse tales, the author made this plague a bit more varied with the effects of infection. It is airborne, which means that if you are near someone who is infected you can also become infected regardless of bites. An odd way to combat the potential infection is by drinking alcohol. It seems to prevent the virus from taking hold of your brain if you get intoxicated. There are different stages to the infection, with those who die from it coming back and acting more like traditional zombies. Those who are initially infected behave like they are somewhat human, with sexual urges and established pecking orders-they are primitive and violent, but definitely not undead cannibals. Those who die behave more like the traditional undead we are more familiar with. Getting bit doesn’t seem to insure death, though it is uncertain whether anyone who dies, regardless of the cause, returns. It was certainly an interesting, a complex set of variables that the author introduces.
The story is told in first person and the narrator makes it clear how unprepared he is to survive during the course of the book. In fact, it is a running theme-from the first survivor he meets to everything he goes through, it is a reminder of how little those of us used to modern conveniences know about growing food, staying warm, getting water, hunting, and defending ourselves. He even jokes that he should collect someone who is Amish on a supply run so they can teach him how to function in a society without electricity and running water. The narrator meets up with several other survivors in his trek through his hometown and surrounding area, including a woman he went to high school with who becomes his closest companion as they face down challenges from both the living and the undead. They search houses, collect supplies, deal with other survivors both friend and foe, all as they are focused on sticking to Clayfield rather than trying to find another place deep in the countryside to hide out from the growing population of the infected and undead.
The characters, for the most part, seem believable. The main character comes across as somewhat passive at first and while he is forced to toughen up, he seems to acquiesce to the wishes of Jen, his newfound friend, for most of the story. Jen was not a very likable character. She is territorial and pushy, and the narrator seems to accept this as a matter of course, even when she does her best to push away Sara, a younger survivor who they find and that Jen perceives as a threat to her place in their small group. Jen is erratic and foolish at times, taking risks that are plain stupid.
The story is an easy read and again, the characters are believable-reacting in ways that are plausible given their dire circumstances. They were a mixed bag though, and no one leaving me with the urge to root for them. Some of the minor characters, like Brian, were interesting, but weren’t along for most of the ride. Jen is incredibly annoying, and how the main character responds to her more annoying still, but this isn’t to say it isn’t completely plausible. The author does an excellent job making them plausible characters, just not altogether likable. There are two sequels, so the main character, who ranges from timid to rash in his thinking and acting may become someone who I can root for in those novels.
The King of Clayfield can be found here: http://smile.amazon.com/King-Clayfield-Shane-Gregory-ebook/dp/B006I9GYZ2/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=8-1&qid=1409105570
Dead Living by Glenn Bullion starts out as a traditional Day Zero tale with several survivors narrowly escaping a hospital being overrun by the undead. The story skips forward several years a couple of times to re-introduce us to the baby born on that fateful day who has grown into a young man with a special gift. The undead, for some reason, do not realize that he is alive…or at least they have no interest in attacking or eating him. Aaron has survived in the midst of the undead, in Baltimore, which is crawling with them, for many years after everyone he knew was lost to him. As an adult he manages to cross paths with Samantha, another survivor who was abandoned on a supply run into the city by the rest of her team when she got separated from them. Samantha is aloof, cold, and distrusts just about everyone, but after Aaron saves her she feels compelled to do the same for him and invites him back to the small community she resides in a good distance from the city.
As the two new-worlders of the zombie apocalypse get to know one another they grow attached, though Aaron feels the need to maintain his secret talent from Samantha, for fear that she and the others in her community will think of him as a freak. But his ability grants him the capability to wander freely amongst the dead, and that is a talent that his newfound group of friends are going to need to survive both the undead and the living, who, as always, are the real threat to survival.
Dead Living was an easy read and took an interesting idea of the undead being indifferent to someone and ran with it. Aaron’s gift gives him a tremendous advantage and his burgeoning relationship with Samantha has given him a reason to use it for more than just a way to hide away from the rest of the living, but to also help others. The author adds another undead tidbit with the ‘thinkers’, who are the rare but very dangerous undead that can figure out simple things, like how to maneuver objects or turn doorknobs to get access to the living. Naturally, the undead are an overriding threat (and when a thinker is around, they are doubly dangerous), but it is the living, including slavers who roam the wastelands looking for weak survivors to capture, that are the most dangerous element of Aaron and Sam’s world.
The story does require a good deal of suspension of disbelief, especially when it comes to certain technologies that still work over two decades after the world has collapsed. While it might be plausible that someone, somewhere is making bullets and producing gasoline, it seemed a bit of a stretch that there are still stores of such commodities still being found on scavenging runs. It felt at times that the world was more like two to three years down the road from the first undead attacks rather than twenty three with what has come to pass for everyone still around.
The relationship between the main characters is well developed and their newfound relationship is well paced, though Aaron’s fascination and thoughts about how beautiful Samantha was got a bit repetitive after a while. For the most part, their growing affection for one another didn’t feel forced or uncomfortable though-it had a very natural appeal.
The zombie gore is kept to a minimum in the story and instead the focus is on the challenges Aaron and Sam have in both relating to each other and to the world around them. Aaron’s secret keeps things interesting, but Sam’s slow willingness to become more vulnerable around Aaron also keeps the story moving in the right direction. Overall, a fast, entertaining read that will appeal to those who enjoy the human dynamic more than a heavy dose of zombie gore in their apocalyptic fiction.
Hollow Mountain Dead is not Jonathan Moon’s first foray into the cross-genre mix of western and undead fiction, though I believe it is his first full-fledged novel on the subject. He had a book filled with varied short stories along with a novella that took place in the old west that was a rollicking good horror story, but I can’t quite recall what the name of that book was, though I am certain I reviewed it somewhere back in the mists of time.
Mr. Moon has created quite a few different horror tales as well as dipping into bizzarro and other speculative genres. This story, along with his past story that takes place in the mythical American old west, have a taste of harsh reality to them. The darkness isn’t just within the monsters that pour forth from the gaping hole in the side of a mountain, it is embedded in most of the characters we are exposed to-even in the ones who do their best to become heroic when hell comes for a visit. Only a select few seem redeemable here, though it is clear that most are as human as their harsh environment allows them to be.
A greedy, powerful mining magnate has cracked open a mountain with his crew of toughs and army of Chinese immigrant workers who are treated like slaves. When he digs too deep, an old Indian warns him to stop and turn back, but greed casts a powerful spell on him and that is when, literally, all hell breaks loose. A seeping gas bellowing out from seams within the earth turn those who are exposed to it into flesh eating monsters. But this is not the only menace, because there is something further beneath the earth that is reaching out to those on the mountain, corrupting and luring them into evil.
The undead spread, wiping out a homestead and heading toward one of the two towns that sit on the mountainside while the few who managed to escape wave after wave of undead flee the mining camp. Members of the Madoosk tribe have been tasked with stopping the evil have been preparing for it for ages and are ready for it, but they never expected hundreds of miners would get infected or that the plague with spread so fast.
The story moves at a fast pace and there are a multitude of characters. While there are some flashbacks, much of the story is told with the urgency of present tense. The undead are somewhat traditional in their tactics and how they spread, though the supernatural bent here brings some new elements to the table, including new ways to kill the undead that the Madoosk reveal.
As I mentioned, there are a great many characters on display, though that narrows to the select few who are tasked with defeating the undead after the first few waves of carnage pass. There is plenty of gore for those who love that aspect of the zombie genre. The feel of the old west is palpable on each page. Many characters die, both throwaway and those more central to the plot, most in very brutal ways. Again, there probably only a select few characters that most people will like or identify with because of who they were prior to the undead invasion, though a small few will grow on you. Historically, Mr. Moon has been pretty relentless with his horror fiction, with no apologies for the slaughter and sprays of blood and gristle that oozes and spills forth from his pages. This book is no exception to that rule. Not that there is anything wrong with that.
In the end, a door is left open for more Hollow Mountain Dead with the ending of this tale. This book was brutal, relentless, and vicious, and I am looking forward to checking out what comes next.
Hollow Mountain Dead can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Hollow-Mountain-Dead-Jonathan-Moon-ebook/dp/B00LLPU8YG/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=8-1&qid=1407427523
Dead Tide Surge is the third book in Stephen North’s Dead Tide Series, and I have previously reviewed the other two installments, Dead Tide, and Dead Tide Rising. I read both prior to their re-release by Permuted Press and so I do not know for certain if there were significant changes, specifically a transition from present to past tense being used by the author. This is the first of this series that I have read that was not in present tense. While the transition didn’t change the story or impact the characters or dialog, the immediacy felt with present tense falls away a bit here. That isn’t meant as a criticism. The majority of stories are written in past tense for a reason and there is value to crafting a tale in that format. Most people find it less jarring and more aesthetically pleasing. While this may be true, I can say that the present tense versions of the first two books in this series were more than satisfactory for me-the pacing was fast and the short chapters that shuffle the reader from one character to the next was abrupt, but in a good way for someone who enjoys a bit of disruptive force being used in the stories they read. Despite the tense change, the short, sharp chapters remain. Reading the Dead Tide series is like getting shot at by an automatic weapon, with perhaps a dozen different story lines crashing against one another and keeps the reader on their toes. Certainly not a style that everyone enjoys, but it has allowed the author to manage the experiences of an ensemble cast scattered around the Tampa Bay area who are all dealing with the onslaught of the undead and it keeps them all top of mind as they appear on the pages with great frequency.
Dead Tide Surge starts up as abruptly as its predecessor left off, so if it has been a while since you read Dead Tide Rising, it may take a few chapters to catch on to where each character, or groups of characters, ended up by the end of book two. But it has been nearly four years since I read the prior installment in this series and was still able to recall the bulk of what the characters who have survived to this point have been through. My only hope is that I don’t have to wait several more years for the next installment. Originally, I presumed this would be a trilogy, and at some points in this book it appeared as though some of the many story lines were drawing to a conclusion. The author did a good job of adding enough surprises so that while some characters meet their demise, others have plenty of reason to go on fighting to survive through at least one more book. Some of the many strands of this very complex web do cross paths and I could believe that the fourth book could be the final stand of this series, though who is to say? Plenty of the characters have not interacted with one another as of yet. The author will have to determine if everyone will be together on the same page before all is said and done. My gut tells me Mr. North isn’t quite sure himself how things will end up-will there be hope or will it all end in blood and despair?
With all the tightly interwoven plot elements here, reading the first two books is pretty much mandatory to understand what is going on here in book 3. And if you enjoy tales of zombie gore and violence that is character driven (driven by a large cast of characters, that is) then it is worth picking up the trilogy.
Dead Tide Surge can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Dead-Tide-Surge-Book-3-ebook/dp/B00KPKGCFC/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=1-1&qid=1406668944
I was notified with the pleasant news that I am the featured author over at the Zombie Authors Blog for the next couple of weeks. So while you may have found me here on my own slice of the blogosphere, please go check out what they have to say about me over at Zombie Authors: http://zombie-authors.blogspot.com/
Thanks to Jule Romans for giving me the heads up on this nice bit of news.
Time of Death: Induction introduces the reader to Emma Rossi, a nursing student living in southwest Florida when the zombie apocalypse begins. While the prologue is told in third person and gives a hint as to who patient zero might be, the rest of the tale is told in first person from Emma’s perspective. She works at the hospital that is first hit by the advent of the dead rising, but her shift ends before things get crazy. Still, through the combination of a violent storm and the fast spread of the virus things crash down all around her at home, with her husband Jake and their little dog Daphne fleeing for their lives as their home is overwhelmed by the walking dead.
After a series of narrow escapes, Emma and Jake manage to hook up with a group of soldiers who have claimed a Target superstore as their barricaded base of operations. But it is clear that while the location appears to be secure they are far from safe as the world around them crumbles in the blink of an eye. When Jake disappears on a supply mission and things start to fall apart at the store, Emma is forced to race through one harrowing and tragic event after another.
While Time of Death: Induction doesn’t introduce any new elements to the zombie genre-the zeds here are slow moving, traditional Romero zombies and not the ‘infected’ or have any differing abilities, the author has created a solid, fast moving story of personal survival. There is plenty of gore and death, and the addition of the little dog the main character wants to keep sheltered and protected will add a sense of impending dread for anyone who is an animal lover, since Daphne seems to get herself into more sticky situations than the main character.
The pacing of the story is fast, with the main character and various other survivors she is with dealing with one traumatic event after another as the body count continues to rise and hope becomes fleeting. The writing is smooth with no significant editing concerns. The author provides Emma with a strong voice-she is easy to identify with and appreciate as a regular person thrown into an untenable situation where she is forced to make one difficult decision time after time. The story is heavy on the undead being the main challenge for the survivors rather than human confrontations, with the exception of a rather brief but intense interaction with some desperate outsiders to Emma’s group. Beyond this, there are some arguments but they take a back seat to basic day to day and minute by minute survival against the undead. While Emma and Jake are fleshed out characters, the secondary players were less detailed, which is often a challenge faced when a story is told in first person. We don’t get to know many of the other characters too well before many are obliterated in the apocalypse. This isn’t a stiff criticism but more of an acknowledgement that this is Emma’s tale and the story sticks closely with her worldview and perspective throughout.
This is the author’s first novel and this appears to be the first of a series or trilogy. Shanna Festa has created an exciting, enjoyable tale of desperation and survival, and I look forward to checking out the second book when it becomes available.
Time of Death: Induction can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Time-Death-Induction-Volume-1/dp/1618682725/ref=tmm_pap_title_0