I’m starting to think that I should hop off the bandwagon and stop talking so much sh*t about zombie fiction. I’ll admit that on the movie front, it has been killed completely… head shot and all. But I’ve got this friend that dropped a huge ass bag of zombie lit at my feet and when I put aside my pride and arrogance and actually read them, I’ve been impressed so far. I guess I’m not the only one going through this, because those purveyors of the walking dead: Permuted Press just set up a deal with Pocket Books to rerelease some of their stuff in paperback form, with the first of them being this one (due out in October 2009). Hence the review of a 5 year old book.
In it’s essence, this is no different than most zombie stories. Some kind of virus or something infects the populous, waking the dead and giving them a craving for warm, living flesh… check. The world is apparently overrun and social order collapses… check. We share our time with a small pocket of humanity that is desperately trying to survive… check. Inventory lists… check. The main character is the stoic survivor type with a military background and we’ve kinda been here before, right. Especially in a post-Brooks world, you need to bring more to the table than that.
Where the difference comes in is the presentation. Taking a page from The One True Zombie Book, this is written in a stop/start journal fashion that gives us the story in very discrete, easily digestible chunks. By writing it through this specific format, he forgoes the broad view of Max’s book for the more intense, personal view of a Romero film. While this lacks a bit of the sense of awe, it does allow us to form a stronger bond with our protagonist, making his peril more intense for us to experience.
Bourne’s writing style here is very cold and calculated, matter-of-fact and, well, military in the economy of words, which fits the approach and character well. As events progress, he shows himself to be quite adept at ratcheting up the tension, never letting us forget for a moment that death is constantly screeching, clawing and moaning at the door. Of special note are the little touches that are put in, like notes handwritten in the margins, little spots of burnt paper, smudged ink and stained pages along with the occasional wrinkled photo looking like it was taped in place. These help continue the illusion of it being an actual journal of the end of our civilization and show an affection for the material that is infectious. Unfortunately, I have a hard time believing that these will make it into the paperback edition.
Now for the bad news: this is definitely one of those novels that will leave you feeling very frustrated at the end unless you are dedicated to the philosophy that it is all about the journey, not the end itself. I say this because there is no real story here, at least not in the traditional sense. Instead, it is more a series of events that build and move along until it stops more than ends. Granted, this is exactly what a real journal would read like since life doesn’t exactly have traditional plot arcs but it makes for a bit of frustrating reading. We tend to want a central conflict and some sort of a resolution and neither are present here. This is something that could be a deal breaker for many people out there.
The good news is that there is apparently a sequel in the works that may bring some sense of closure to this tale and it certainly says quite a bit about Bourne’s writing that I am chomping at the bit for more despite the disappointing finish. Here’s to The Fall.
Available at Permuted Press
Available at Amazon