I have neglected my blog for a long time now, but I have still been reading, so I need to catch up on various books that I’ve read, my thoughts about them and a rough review. I have abandoned, for the time being the reviews in order which I tried initially to use as a way of keeping track on my reading habits. A more anarchic approach will have to suffice for the time being.
Another Zombie Apocalypse? Enough Already.
I have been reading a lot of zombie apocalypse books recently. I’m not sure why. I think they serve a useful purpose in that they are suitably ‘horror’ in their nature, but they aren’t really disturbing to me because I’m really not expecting a zombie uprising any time soon.
My experience has shown that in common with other genres, there are really two important foundations to a good story. The first is a good idea, the second is the ability to tell the story well.
This book had as its foundation an interesting idea which, according to the preface came from one of the author’s students. They had asked how the author thought armies of the past, the Romans, or medieval European, might fair against a zombie horde.
This clearly appealed to the author, steeped in history as he appears to be, and his book is based on the idea. However, it doesn’t try and tell the story of a zombie event in a different time period, but instead tells the story of an ex-soldier who has seen the effect of the biological warfare in Afghanistan which would eventually lead to the zombie attacks, and who, having left the army is conveniently very rich and a lecturer in medieval weaponry.
Okay, But All Zombie Apocalypses Need A Set Up.
The process of getting to what is essentially a modern day castle, full of people ranging from old army buddies to a convenient love interest is handled okay. The narrative is sometimes quite awkward, and you can see the way its had to be built up to get where the author wants to go. Unfortunately, while efficient, the process feels anything but organic, and that impacts strongly on things like whether the characters are believable or whether you want to have empathy with them.
But the strangest things are what have to be described as the obsessions of the author. At every turn his protagonists are required to hydrate themselves ready for the next encounter. I think this is meant to indicate how hard it is to fight the zombies in a hand to hand situation, but it left me feeling like the film adaptation would have to be sponsored by Evian or Perrier.
There is also a strongly American tilt to the story. The central character, Jack is a former Ranger, a unit repeatedly described at the best soldiers in the world. This felt like little more than ego massage from the beginning, and when each of the soldiers that joined the survivors was described as ‘having kept in ranger condition’ it just felt faintly ludicrous. There were some other related issues in the telling of the story, most especially regarding just how many people had guns, though there was a bit of a twist that the zombies were attracted by sound, so gun usage was usually kept to a minimum, and where they were used they were ‘suppressed 22s’, or guns with silencers.
So, in summary, this book was built on an interesting idea, but the idea was watered down so that the author could write it from a stance of what he knew, diluting some of the more interesting aspects of the story. The writing itself was stilted, though it didn’t lose itself during fights nearly as often as some other books that I’ve read. But it did highlight one of the issues which it feels to me has become an issue with the ePublishing phenomenon. Books can get written and published on kindles and other readers, and can do this having never been through the hands of either an editor or a proof reader. This book suffered from this issue, as have many of my other recent reads. A good editor would have cut through the guff where there was guff and called for clarity when it was needed.
Unfortunately, as I say, this book isn’t alone in crying out for this.