Max Newsome is our main “hero/character”, he is ex-military and studying in college; English Major – less useful than basket weaving in an apocalypse! not my words but a brilliant line in this first novel by RJ Kennett.
The opening scene of a shooting on campus is cleverly done to accentuate the shooting and not draw undue attention to the possible zombie aspect.
Now, let’s get the negatives out of the way so I can wow you with the positives at the end and make you want to read this book.
The repetitive descriptive words or phrases became annoying eventually and the phrase “can it”, said endlessly by our hero really got on my pip after about the fortieth time of saying it to people.
Max was generally an irritating character for me, his constant berating of “his failing in saving everybody” was nauseating, and then he goes on to berate poor Arthur, his non-military class mate/nerd for being selfish or stupid but is forever doing that himself.
I actually preferred Arthur, although the author continually puts Max up as the hero, Arthur had more gumption and substance for me, he has humour and honesty. Max just got on my pip, although he did perk up a bit and become what he was bragging about at the end.
When in the campus building the time line in mounting the defense and organising “lieutenants” was a little off for me, and I was sad to see some of the best characters (up until that point) killed off but I did enjoy the planning element though, some interesting things to consider. Although it was nice of the “attackers” to wait until all the preparation was done before breaking glass!
The rehash and reiteration of what has happened was a little tedious after a while, unless you are the type to read one chapter at a time, weeks apart there seemed little point of it.
The muted conversation about the infected being zombies was clever, I disagree with the other reviews who comment that “they” ignored the obvious for so long, in reality nobody would believe zombies, werewolves or vampires, so why change “reality” in a book?? Yes its fiction, yes it’s a clear apocalyptic book but that does not mean your characters cannot be real!
With the aftermath of the campus behind them, our intrepid duo go in search of loved ones and find Eva hiding out, again she is a good addition to the team, but a little too convenient that she is medically trained.
The little mishmash group soon discover that martial law has been instigated and it’s not just the campus and surrounding areas that are in trouble, as survivors are rounded up by the Army and taken to the first staging area for safety the inevitable return from the dead occurs, and the denial that follows was obvious but done in a very clever way as to detract from the zombie word again.
As they are moved around and taken to the local airport as a place of safety, it staggeringly has reinforced areas, unless I missed something major or this is normal in the USA? The Army and a new group called the COR (Central Outbreak Response – I so want a sticker saying that!) team are there to greet them, scrub them down and then start to organise some normality, along food, tents and work details.
They are joined by various other survivors, one of whom is a Reverend. I found the conversation and work detail given to him very condescending; councilor, was HE not allowed to grieve? The ensuing conversation with Max and Eva was so cringe worthy for me, surely he would know how to talk to distressed/grieving people he does not need a med student and army vet to tell him! But I thought it got a bit OTT to then rant GodSquad for a full two pages.
Some pieces of the writing were outstanding, some stilted, some uncomfy in their “childish” nature and others pieces just poop – that said, it’s a first novel and RJK should be commended. Some of the ideas were great and unique, some areas of harsh reality were just that and not contrived. The characters were full bloodied and felt rounded, I enjoyed the drip drip of back stories, not the full on confession the minute you meet someone, although more time spent differing points of view earlier in the story would have been nice, especially as I personally disliked Max. They interacted well and for the most part were not wooden.
Fact based issues should also be addressed, but these issues should have been picked up by beta readers or the editor – Rigor mortis is used on several occasions as the reason for the “undead” slowing down, yet when they are doing mass burials at the airport the dead are all stiff, well after the 24hr time period for it to occur. Also, and this is a personal bug for me, unless you have proper facilities for testing, cleaning, giving and storing then using random blood would be more deadly than suffering without it!
That aside the detached medical fascination was good, studying the recently undead “patient” and the rest of the medical comments seemed to be correct and in context.
I thought the action and the gore description took a while to get going, almost like RJK was protecting the reader but it soon heated up.
Of course the safe zone falls, in a fairly dramatic way and our little team are left on a nice cliff hanger, will I read the next one?
As for Lassie, RJK you are an arse!