After a virus starts wiping people out and turning them into flesh-eating zombies the streets are overrun by an always growing horde of the undead. Sam, just a regular guy who was forced to kill him wife who became a zombie due to the virus, seeks refuge at a local church where a group of survivors have taken shelter. Unfortunately it is anything but a safe haven as the maniacal Reverend McKay (who is in charge of the church) isn’t the nicest guy in the world and rules over his followers with an iron fist. Is Sam safer staying at the church where McKay and his henchmen kill anyone who disagrees with them or is he better off taking his chances with the army of zombies roaming around everywhere looking for their next meal?
When I first got The Church (written by the very talented John McCuaig) I honestly wasn’t expecting much. I thought that is was just going to be another unoriginal zombie novel that wasn’t going to be anything I hadn’t already encountered countless times before. I am happy to admit that I was wrong and it is actually a pretty damn good book. It is well-written, has an interesting plot, great characters, and a ton of action. I really dug The Church and had a great time reading it.
One of the things that I liked most about the novel is the fact that the zombies take a back seat to other issues for most of the book. Yes, there are zombies running around eating everyone in sight, but they really aren’t the main antagonists here. They show up every once in a while and kill some of the characters, but overall they are pretty much just one of the many obstacles that our heroes must contend with in order to survive.
The real evil in the book isn’t the zombies, but Reverend McKay and his cult-like followers. McKay is an insane, power-hungry, manipulative guy who will stop at nothing to be in charge of others. Anyone who opposes (or even disagrees with him) is swiftly thrown out of the church where they are usually devoured by the hungry sea of zombies waiting outside the church’s gates. He is one of those scary religious nutcases who does whatever he wants and claims to do it in the name of God. People like him give me the creeps as they are usually able to manipulate others into doing their bidding. The reverend is a scary dude and I think I would personally have to deal with a handful of zombies than cross paths with him.
The other characters are also very well done as well. Sam is just your basic everyday guy mourning the death of his wife (and wondering about the fate of his adult children) who is forced into the role of the reluctant hero. He is just an average guy and is by no means an action hero, so it is interesting watching him do whatever it takes to save lives and stay alive himself. Matt is a good character as well, and after the death of his father he goes from an easy-going guy to a hardcore badass who the other survivors are more than eager to follow since he is such a natural leader. I liked Dawn as well (even though she starts out as an unlikable bitch before she falls for Matt and comes to her senses about McKay), and her brother Wayne is pretty intimidating as the Reverend’s main enforcer and bodyguard (though I think he is killed off way too soon and there could have been a lot more that could have been done with him). Overall, I think that the characters from this book are realistic and fleshed-out, and if most readers are like me they will find themselves really caring about what happens to all of them.
I also appreciated the fact that there is almost a nonstop flow of action going on as well. There is very little lag time as there is usually something going on at all times so it helped hold my interest. We have zombie attacks, brutal murders (the fate of Matt’s father is pretty cruel), gun battles, and a ton of other stuff going on though out the book that kept me highly entertained. I can’t think of a single time that I was reading it where I felt bored or tempted to skip ahead a few paragraphs or pages.
Other than a few grammar and spelling issues (sorry, I’m an English teacher and I notice these things) there is nothing negative that I can say about this book. It reminded me a little of Simon Clark’s novel Blood Crazy as well as “28 Days Later.” I thought that it was an excellent read and McCuaig is no doubt a great writer. I look forward to checking out his future writings and think that he will have a fan base fairly soon (I know I am a fan of his work so far). Check out this book if you get a chance, I guarantee that you won’t be disappointed.