(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)
The Bastion was humanity’s last hope against the fearsome undead creatures known as the Inferi Scourge. A fortified city with a high wall, surrounded by lush land rich with all the resources needed to survive, protected by high mountain summits, and a massive gate to secure the only pass into the valley, the Bastion became the last stronghold of the living on earth. But one fateful day, the gate failed and the Inferi Scourge destroyed the human settlements outside the walls and trapped the survivors inside the city. Now decades later, the last remaining humans are struggling to survive in a dying city as resources and hope dwindle.
Vanguard Maria Martinez has lived her whole life within the towering walls of steel. She yearns for a life away from the overcrowded streets, rolling blackouts, and food shortages, but there is no hope for anyone as long as the Inferi Scourge howl outside the high walls. Her only refuge from the daily grind is in the arms of her lover, Dwayne Reichardt, an officer in the Bastion Constabulary. Both are highly-decorated veterans of the last disastrous push against the Inferi Scourge. Their secret affair is her only happiness.
Then one day Maria is summoned to meet with a mysterious representative from the Science Warfare Division and is offered the opportunity to finally destroy the Inferi Scourge in the valley and close the gate. The rewards of success are great, but she will have to sacrifice everything, possibly even her life, to accomplish the ultimate goal of securing the future of humanity and saving it from extinction.
[Full disclosure: I received a free ebook copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]
I love zombies. I love a good action movie. I also love a good story with a well-developed protagonist and excellent world-building. The Last Bastion of the Living is all of the above in one awesome, heart-pounding package.
Maria Martinez is a kick-butt protagonist. Not only can she literally kick butt, she can think her way out of most situations. She’s not always the perfect obedient soldier that everyone wants her to be, even if she appears to be on the outside. At the same time, all she really wants to do is protect the Bastion and those living inside of it. Even if it means sacrificing herself to do it. Maria can be emotionally vulnerable, but I love how she’s also capable of sucking it up and just continuing on when work needs to be done. And even though she tries her best to ignore the facts staring her in the face during her mission, when there’s no way the inevitable can be denied she throws herself into the situation to work for the greater good.
Even if the rest of the book was awful, Maria would more than make up for it. Except that Rhiannon Frater has created a fascinating world of scary, futuristic zombies (staying true to the novel’s tagline). The technology is advanced, but is decaying within the Bastion as the living lost access to their natural resources outside the main citadel. There are signs of decay throughout the novel, both cultural and technological and it makes for a dark, brooding sort of atmosphere. Even though there are happy moments and glimpses of hope, Rhiannon Frater maintains that brooding atmosphere throughout the novel and I have great admiration for that. She does things like have Maria’s crew joke around without really breaking the tension she slowly builds up in the background.
The world-building here is amazing. The Last Bastion of the Living is no typical zombie novel, believe me. The combination of technology and plain old-fashioned zombie killing makes for a thoroughly enjoyable, refreshing sort of zombie novel. I never have pretended that I’m strong in the sciences and I never will, but I loved how Rhiannon Frater did include some scientific explanations for how Maria and her comrades can possibly succeed in their mission to kill all of the zombies. In addition to the science, the history leading up to this awful zombie apocalypse was well thought out, if not extraordinarily detailed. Really, I didn’t feel the need for a lot of detail and most of my questions were answered, but I just love the ending’s potential for a sequel.
If you love zombies and/or science fiction or have ever even thought of trying a zombie novel, this would be a great introduction. You couldn’t ask for a better one, believe me.
I give this book 5/5 stars.