Tagged: zombie apocalypse

Omega Days by John L. Campbell

Omega Days by John L. Campbell(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

When the end came, it came quickly. No one knew where or exactly when the Omega Virus started, but soon it was everywhere. And when the ones spreading it can’t die, no one stands a chance of surviving.

San Francisco, California. Father Xavier Church has spent his life ministering to unfortunate souls, but he has never witnessed horror like this. After he forsakes his vows in the most heartrending of ways, he watches helplessly as a zombie nun takes a bite out of a fellow priest’s face…
University of California, Berkeley. Skye Dennison is moving into her college dorm for the first time, simultaneously excited to be leaving the nest and terrified to be on her own. When her mother and father are eaten alive in front of her, she realizes the terror has just begun…
Alameda, California. Angie West made millions off her family’s reality gun show on the History Channel. But after she is cornered by the swarming undead, her knowledge of heavy artillery is called into play like never before…
Within weeks, the world is overrun by the walking dead. Only the quick and the smart, the strong and the determined, will survive—for now.

[Full disclosure: I received a free paperback at Book Expo America 2015 with no expectation of a review.]

One of the things I have to make clear from the start is that this is not the original ebook that some other people have reviewed.  This is the new, expanded paperback edition that was published by Penguin under their Berkley imprint.  I don’t know how many differences there really are between the two editions but apparently there are a few more little points of view to add interest and some tightening of certain narratives in a couple of places.  In the relative scheme of things, I think the few distinctions don’t really matter all that much.

First, let’s start off with the characters.  We have a huge variety of characters from your typical college student who turns into a killing machine to a reality TV show star who has a fully stocked arsenal of guns.  And while Skye and Angie are fascinating characters, one of the characters that isn’t really your typical ‘stock character’ in a zombie apocalypse is Xavier, the priest.  He is definitely an unconventional priest coming from a very rough background but at the same time he really does seem to care about all of the survivors he meets.  For a while he loses his faith (who wouldn’t?) but then toward the end of the novel we start to see a sort of transformation in him as he learns that perhaps all is not hopeless, despite the devastation around him.

One of the things I found very realistic is that people in the Omega universe actually knew about zombies.  It’s not like Mira Grant’s Newsflesh trilogy where people immediately knew what to do with zombies, but they did make occasional references to zombies in popular culture.  Another thing I appreciated was that although the government of the United States fell fairly quickly, independent pockets of the military managed to cling on and try to rescue as many people as they could.  That’s more realistic in my view than a total collapse of everything as surely there would be some military units out there with a strong enough chain of command to hold people together during a crisis, even one as big as a zombie apocalypse.  And throughout the story we see the points of view of various peoples who survive in various ways: doctors whose hospitals were mostly overrun but were protected by the military for a time while they worked on a cure, a Russian military pilot sent to train American soldiers, a crazy televangelist who is about as ruthless as you might expect, etc.  Some of these people play large parts in the story while others only get a single point of view before dying or just passing from notice.  It’s a very realistic look into how different people would cope during a nationwide disaster like a zombie apocalypse.

Which brings me to one thing: the plot.  Normally you would expect all of these points of view to really slow down the plot or make it confusing.  Omega Days really didn’t have that problem, oddly enough.  The little side stories were nice and were short enough that they didn’t take away from the main plot as the different pockets of survivors converged.  They also imparted important information regarding how the military and governmental structures fell and what doctors and scientists were able to find out about the Omega Virus and zombies in general before most of the hospitals were overrun.  I think it will be very interesting in future books to see Campbell expand upon the idea that the zombies aren’t just infected with one virus, they have two different viruses working in tandem.  I would love to gush on about this very different idea of making zombies come to life (so to speak) but I’ll leave that for you to discover as you read the book.

Basically, Omega Days really was a pleasant surprise.  A lot of zombie books read the same or are shameless rip-offs of The Walking Dead, what with its current popularity.  But Omega Days is really different and I appreciated all of the different points of view John L. Campbell wove together into a coherent narrative that told the story of the zombie apocalypse.  I can’t say that this book is the most amazing I’ve ever read but it is very well written, with interesting characters and plenty of suspense.  You can’t go wrong with that.

I give this book 4/5 stars.

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Plague of the Undead by Joe McKinney

Plague of the Undead by Joe McKinney(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

For thirty years, they have avoided the outbreak of walking death that has consumed America’s heartland. They have secured a small compound near the ruins of Little Rock, Arkansas. Isolated from the world. Immune to the horror. Blissfully unaware of what lies outside in the region known as the Dead Lands. Until now…

Led by a military vet who’s seen better days, the inexperienced offspring of the original survivors form a small expedition to explore the wastelands around them. A biologist, an anthropologist, a cartographer, a salvage expert—all are hoping to build a new future from the rubble. Until all hell breaks loose…

The infected are still out there. Stalking. Feeding. Spreading like a virus. Wild animals roam the countryside, hunting prey. Small pockets of humanity hide in the shadows: some scared, some mad, all dangerous. This is the New World. If the explorers want it, they’ll have to take it. Dead or alive…

From the blurb of this book, I was absolutely fascinated.  It’s rare that you get a surviving, almost thriving community 30 years after the apocalypse but it’s even rarer that they’re eager to explore and that zombies are still out there.  How did the zombies not rot away?  Is Arbella the only community still out there?  What happens when the next generation of survivors, the ones that have only known a post-apocalyptic world, encounter the rest of the people that have survived?  Answer: nothing good.

In the beginning of Plague of the Undead, our main character Jacob has a huge moral dilemma: he’s the sheriff of the town and a man has committed a crime.  Now normally that would not be a big deal but the problem is that crime was theft and that’s against the Code.  It means death for the man who stole because trust is the most important thing you can have post-apocalypse.  So poor Jacob has to kill his first man in cold blood, looking him right in the face to make sure he doesn’t miss his shot.  With a beginning like that, you’d expect the book to keep being pretty awesome.  Unfortunately, that wasn’t really the case.  The book starts out pretty exciting as Jacob shoots a man, gets promoted, gets approval to take an expedition out into the dead lands and sets out on said expedition.  The problem is that once the group is actually out and about, things get boring pretty quickly.

The main problem in this book is the middle: it drags on and on in one place.  Long story short, the survivors get ambushed by some bad guys and the survivors of the attack are forced into slavery.  Then a huge chunk of the book is devoted to how Jacob and the survivors cope during the slavery and how they try to escape.  In a lot of cases I wouldn’t find this boring because it would be interesting from a psychology perspective or even just from a character development perspective.  But it really wasn’t.  The lack of pacing just dragged the whole plot down to the point where I really wasn’t even interested in the mysterious flying saucers and finding out how much of civilization was really left.  I just wanted the book to be over.

In the beginning, Jacob shows a lot of promise as a character.  He doesn’t want to kill the man convicted of theft but at the same time he has to in order to maintain the Code and therefore maintain law and order in Arbella.  And when he finally gets approval for the wasteland scavenging/information gathering mission, he’s ecstatic and has to plan like mad.  From personal experience I completely understand the frustration he faces as every single person criticizes how he’s going about the mission but he sticks to his guns and sets out with a great plan and a good team.  Then when things go south, Jacob as a character sort of goes downhill.  He becomes more of a walking stereotype.  He pines after Kelly (the woman he used to love as a teenager), becomes colder as the slavery takes its toll and tries to ignore just how skeevy his best friend/enemy is.  It’s like that fascinating, well-rounded character we meet in the beginning was thrown out the window and replaced with a total wimp that lacks the psychological depth of the first character.

The world-building was decent in comparison to the pacing and the characterization.  I liked the explanation Joe McKinney gave for why the zombies weren’t rotting even thirty years later and I liked the way he set up Arbella as a good model of what people can do during the apocalypse.  There are some horrible communities like you’d expect, but he shows that not only the bad people survive and thrive during the apocalypse.  That’s quite a bit different from your typical zombie apocalypse tropes.  I also love how he explained the ammunition problem and how he solved some of the problems with guns during the apocalypse, like the sound issue.  I think a lot of research went into Plague of the Undead but the problem is that the actual story itself was rather boring.

In the end, I don’t know whether or not I can recommend this book.  It won a Bram Stoker award so clearly some people didn’t think it was rubbish or disappointing but at the same time I just can’t say that I enjoyed it.  I guess you just have to do your own research, read a couple of reviews from different sides of the issue and make a decision.

I give this book 2/5 stars.

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Time of Death: Induction by Shana Festa

Time of Death Induction by Shana Festa(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

When no one or nowhere is safe, where do you go to escape the monsters?

In a few short days, 37 year old Emma Rossi’s hard work will finally pay off. She will don her cap and gown and graduate with a degree in nursing, but not before she loses her first patient and is confronted with a new reality. In Cape Coral, Florida, a storm approaches. The dead are coming back to life.

And they’re hungry.

Infection ravages the Eastern Seaboard with alarming speed while attempts to contain the spread of infection fail. Within days, a small pocket of panicked survivors are all that remain of civilization. Fighting to survive the zombie apocalypse alongside her husband Jake and their dog Daphne, Emma comes face-to-face with her worst nightmare.

Relying on snarky wit and sheer determination, she is forced to commit atrocious acts to protect her family and avoid joining the ranks of the undead.

[Full disclosure: I received a free ebook copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.]

I love zombie novels and I’ve read quite a few of them in the past two years or so, ever since Mira Grant’s Feed sparked my appetite for them.  Every author has a different take on the zombie apocalypse and while some are more creative than others, most of the ones I choose to read are generally pretty good.  Time of Death: Induction is no different.

What makes Shana Festa’s novel really stand out is the fact that she really focuses on the emotions her characters go through as they lose almost everything they once held dear.  Emma and Jake go from place to place, scavenging and desperately trying to find other people that can help them survive but like you’d expect, not everyone is very altruistic during the end of the world.  All they want to do is find a place where they can hunker down and survive but of course nothing is simple where zombies and people are concerned.  Seeing their emotional and psychological shifts to adapt to the harsh new world they live in was actually very fascinating.  Jake in particular took things pretty hard while Emma retained a lot of the original softness of her character until certain events forced it from her.  At times their relationship because strained—extremely strained—but you don’t really doubt that they love each other and will do anything to keep the other person alive and relatively safe.

Since Shana Festa chooses to focus on the more human side of the zombie apocalypse we never really get to see the origins of her zombies explained.  We know that the government tried to contain the spread and that things moved extremely fast with dozens of supposed patient zeroes rising from their supposed deaths in hospitals and morgues.  Since Emma was a nurse we got to see quite a disturbing scene as one such patient died before her second rising but we never really get into the science of the whole thing.  That bothers me in some books but not in Induction in part because that’s not what she chooses to focus on.  The main focus of the story is on survival and how the characters are adapting to a horrific changing world; they don’t really care about the cause of the zombies so much as how they can avoid getting eaten by the zombies.

The plot didn’t seem to be all that original at first but things quickly got going.  Wherever you see typical zombie apocalypse tropes, Shana Festa tries to invert or subvert them in order to make them her own.  This is in part because the main driving force of the novel is the characters, both main and secondary.  The actions of all the characters have consequences that are not always immediately seen but are made painfully clear given time.  Zombies are not crafty or smart but it’s the stupidity of people that allow them to overrun camps because people choose to conceal bites or don’t follow safety precautions.  Really, the one thing this book makes clear is that it’s almost safer to have a smaller band of people you can trust implicitly rather than a huge community where you don’t necessarily know everyone.  Will Emma and Jake find a small band of people they can trust?  From the huge cliffhanger ending of the book it’s really hard to tell and that’s why I am so eager to read the second book.

If you like zombies but tend to favour a more human-based approach to a zombie apocalypse, this is definitely the book for you.  The characters are believable and sympathetic and they’re not always perfect but in the end you get the feeling that everyone is just doing their best to survive.  The zombies are terrifying and there are lots of plot twists, so you really can’t ask for more in those areas.  Basically, if you like zombies, give this book a try!

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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Hollowland by Amanda Hocking

Hollowland by Amanda Hocking(Cover picture courtesy of Amanda Hocking’s Blog.)

“This is the way the world ends – not with a bang or a whimper, but with zombies breaking down the back door.”

Nineteen-year-old Remy King is on a mission to get across the wasteland left of America, and nothing will stand in her way – not violent marauders, a spoiled rock star, or an army of flesh-eating zombies.

After enjoying Amanda Hocking’s Trylle trilogy, which was admittedly light reading but still good, I decided to give Hollowland a go.  I mean, it’s about zombies and it was free on Amazon at the time so why not?  I had already read Amanda Hocking’s work and liked it so it seemed like it would be a winner.

Except it wasn’t.  The plot was so cliché that I could pretty much predict all of the plot twists.  And certain elements were so unbelievable that I have to laugh.  A pet lion, really?  Even if it was tame before the apocalypse, it certainly would not have stayed tame after Remy freed it from a bunch of zombies.  Okay, if I suspend disbelief on that front long enough I still find the rest of the plot either trite or unbelievable.

Harlow is thirteen but is so immature you would think she’s eight years old, Remy knows how to get things done but is an unemotional robot and Lazlo is just plain annoying.  I don’t want to spoil too much, but the fact that Remy’s little brother is taken by the government for immunity testing and Remy wasn’t is just a little unbelievable considering they’re siblings and therefore could share the same DNA that makes them immune.

The characters were unlikeable and the plot was, well, nonexistent.  Remy and the gang do a bunch of travelling and get chased by zombies a couple of times, find the quarantine zone and just relax until the very end.  Trust me, you can predict what happens at the end by chapter two.  Honestly, I would have expected quite a lot more from Amanda Hocking, considering that I enjoyed her Trylle trilogy.  Sure, it was a little predictable and there were a few clichés, but there was nothing on the level of Hollowland.

Moving on from the characters and the plot, I did find one good thing about Hollowland: the zombies.  The zombies are more of the 28 Days Later fast zombie type than the traditional slow type.  They display a lot more intelligence than zombies in some books and even lay an ambush for the characters at one point.  However, there is exactly zero information on the virus/parasite/whatever that caused the zombies and virtually no backstory about how or when the apocalypse started.  It’s frustrating because that’s the one element I actually enjoyed in the story.

Overall?  I’d give Hollowland a solid ‘meh’.  The zombies are okay, but the characters and plot are either boring or unbelievable.

I give this book 2/5 stars.

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Why are Zombies so Scary?

Since I do not feel like writing a book review today, I want to try some therapy write an article about why zombies are so scary.  They’re just walking hunks of dead meat, right?  Wrong.  Zombies, particularly in YA fiction, represent so much of what we as humans fear and I hope I can explore why they scare me us so much.  Warning: these pictures are not for the faint of heart.

1.  They are basically designed to kill/infect us.

In most new zombie tales, zombies are able to sense and track us humans.  Whether they are slow or fast, they pursue us with a single-minded determination that’s unmatched anywhere and because they lack any coherent thoughts, the only thing on their minds is food.  And guess what: we are their only (or sometimes main) source of food.  Therefore, they will do anything to get at us.  Their predatory instinct is, in my opinion, what makes them so terrifying.  Unlike most human villains in fiction, they lack redeeming qualities like mercy, so there is no chance of escaping from them once they have you cornered. Continue reading