Friday Book Review: Hollowland by Amanda Hocking

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

Remy King, the 19-year-old action heroine of Amanda Hocking‘s Hollowland, is a fascinating character who grabs the reader’s attention from the first page. When the government safe-haven she lives at is overrun by zombies, Remy picks up the guns of fallen soldiers and joins the battle.  She’s not just fighting for herself, she’s also fighting for her 8-year-old brother Max, the only other member of her family to survive the zombie apocalypse.  When she finds out he’s been spirited away to another safe-haven, she heads out to find him.

Remy’s no-nonsense kickassery in her quest to rescue her brother moves the story along at a brisk pace. The supporting cast of characters, including a washed up rock star and Remy’s pet lion, Ripley, are entertaining and interesting. The obstacles they find on their path keep the tension high.

The underlying message, which Z.E.R.O. has seen firsthand throughout the years, is the importance of familial bonds. Remy’s dedication to her brother is beyond admirable. No matter how slim the odds, she keeps focused on her mission to find him.  Hocking’s action-packed, young adult novel is thrilling for all ages and is worth the read.

Did I mention it’s free on kindle? Click Hollowland (The Hollows, #1) to get it at Amazon.

Book Review Friday: Zone One by Colson Whitehead

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Whenever a literary writer ventures into genre territory, there is a burst of intellectual excitement to see what a “real” writer can do with genre material.  This snobbishness underlies a belief that genre writing is a lesser literary form that can easily be mastered by those who have written serious fiction. Author Colson Whitehead has an impressive resume including prestigious awards and nominations, but it is no guarantee he can write a good zombie novel.

Zone One refers to a part of lower Manhattan being reclaimed for human resettlement after the zombie apocalypse. Main character Mark Spitz is part of a group of sweepers responsible for going building to building and room to room to eradicate the remaining zombies after the military has rid the area of the majority of them.  Zombies in Zone One fall into two categories: those with cannibalistic tendencies and the stragglers, zombies stuck in an endless loop of repetitive action such as working a copy machine or surfing a long dead internet. The concept of these walking corpses, still somehow tethered to long ago actions and impulses, is an interesting addition to zombie lore. These stragglers are not necessarily dangerous, instead they mirror the stale, predictable actions of the survivors. This new world, sponsored by corporations and managed by the military, hardly seems worth the effort.

In Zone One those in power believe that the zombie problem can be fixed as if it were a lame Super Bowl half time show. If you add enough pomp, pageantry, and a few catchy slogans, America will be ready to return to normal. Unfortunately the one item missing from this brew is hope. Without hope, this reader lost interest in the plight of Mark Spitz and the other survivors.

Zone One is plodding and depressing, but serviceable. The living exhibited the expected trauma and hopelessness at their plight. The zombies continued to be mindless and overwhelming in number.  At the end, it seems, man is destined for extinction.  A sad end to a hopeless novel.

Zone One: A Novel is available at Amazon.

Book Review Friday: This Dark Earth by John Hornor Jacobs

This Dark Earth, by John Hornor Jacobs is a beautifully written tale that doesn’t serve to provide any illumination on zombies. Instead, Jacobs shows how people are the ones to be feared in an apocalypse.  When the infection presents in Dr. Lucy’s waiting room, soldiers show up and start executing the infected and the normal. She’s chased by a gunship as she tries to make her escape from the hospital, then an electromagnetic pulse wipes out all electronics, followed by a nuclear explosion.  No expense is spared to try to contain the outbreak, but, like cockroaches, Lucy and a truck driver named Knockout survive. So do the zombies.

The shamblers, or zeds as the zombies are called, serve as moaning, groaning, objects to be killed in between more important concerns. They are dangerous only because there are so many of them. Though the people in this novel form groups to increase their chance of survival, the undead actually form “damilies,” a foursome or more of zombies that travel and kill together, “Almost as if there’s something in them that they remember about being human.” Even so, the people in this bleak, bloodthirsty novel don’t explore this phenomenon any deeper than to note it and move on.

The sheer, utter hopelessness of survival is what keeps this story grinding forth. Though I found myself rooting for the humans, I questioned my decision as I watched the last living members of the human race fall into the habit of conflict rather than cooperation. At the end, I felt more for the zombies as they mindlessly tried to survive in a hostile world than the people who seemed determined to mess it up.

Buy This Dark Earthat Amazon.