The Reawakening, Book 1 in Joseph Souza’s Living Dead Trilogy, is not your typical zombie fare. Even though there is a character named Rick who imposes a Ricktatorship on the others and much of the action takes place in a farmhouse, it is nothing like the TV series” The Walking Dead”. Instead, Souza uses a zombie apocalypse to tell a cautionary tale about genetically modified food and the unforeseen consequences of man’s tampering with nature.
When Thom and his daughter, Dar, head to Maine to visit his brother and sister-in-law, they become trapped there after a sickness that first targets animals turns its sights on humans. The virus causes its victims to have a religious vision before they turn into flesh-eating monsters. Thom, his scientist brother Rick, and a ragtag group of survivors hole up in Rick’s fortified farmhouse and wait for help to arrive. Help never comes.
Souza does a fine job of educating the reader on genetically modified food without becoming preachy or tiresome. He nicely captures the sense of paranoia and isolation that the survivors endure by virtue of their geographic isolation in Maine and the loss of television, phone, and electronic communication with the outside world. The plot moves along quickly and, other than a scene at the local general store, the farmhouse survivors mostly suffer the psychic scars of not knowing what is going on elsewhere in the Northeast or the world.
In a departure from the stereotypical zombie, Souza’s flesh-eaters mutate and develop characteristics in common with the creature that caused their death. Bit by a cow? Come back with hoofs and hair. Bit by a bird? Develop a beak and wings. As the survivors piece together the rules of this new world they live in, they make alliances, discover strengths, and cover for one another’s weaknesses. As bookish Thom struggles with not being able to return to Boston and save his wife and son, his daughter Dar becomes a skilled sniper and warrior decorated with tattoos and piercings. Dar finds the meaning of her life in this stressful situation while Thom immerses himself in writing a chronology of the events. When Thom discovers that the genetic mutation responsible for the flesh-eaters is in the pollen-filled air, contaminating people silently and not dependent on an infected bite, Thom finds the inner strength to continue on and go off in search of his wife and son.
If you’re looking for a quick read that combines zombies with conspiracy theories, vegans, and genetically modified organisms, The Reawakening is a good choice. The science is explained on an understandable level and never leaves the reader feeling that they are being talked down to or that the conversation is over their head. The characters are unlikable and, at times, not well developed, but Thom’s evolving relationships with his fellow survivors leads to several surprising twists. Those who are looking for more of a religious message may be disappointed as the two competing explanations for the religious visions are never fully addressed. It’s a story line I hope to see explored more thoroughly in Book 2.
Overall, an enjoyable read with a few new twists on zombies. Click The Reawakening (The Living Dead Series) to buy at Amazon.