Friday Book Review: Darpocalypse by Joseph Souza

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Darpocalypse, by Joseph Souza, is the second installment of The Living Dead Trilogy. The title character is Dar, a teenage girl who floundered in life before the zombie apocalypse and flourishes in the aftermath as a brutal warrior and merciless leader.  Under Dar’s reign, the remaining residents of Boston live and work in a fenced-in area of the city as the zombie hordes relentlessly roam and moan outside their gates. It is a recipe for disaster.

Souza’s first novel served as a cautionary tale against genetically modified food. His second focuses on the lengths people will go to attain and keep power.   While Dar battles to keep control of Boston,  the President of the United States remains in control of the Washington, D.C. settlement. That is until Mike Brabas, a convicted domestic terrorist, decides to take over both Washington and Boston. Add in a spy the President sends to Boston to steal their greatest asset, and the zombies recede into the background as humans once again prove they are a bigger danger than the zombies.

One of the things that made Souza’s first book unique was his interpretation of zombies as half-animal half-human hybrids that retained their animal qualities, such as flight. In this novel, they have transformed into normal, shuffling, slow-moving flesh eaters, which, in some ways, make them less terrifying than his original concept. The religious angle from the first installment continues with the phenomenon of the newly departed coming back and speaking of religious matters before transitioning into zombies. Unfortunately, these scenes were few and didn’t serve to raise the intrigue or tension of this story line. My suspicion is that the payoff will come in the planned third book, but may have been better served in bigger doses in book two.

Of the major story lines, the one that followed Dar was the most interesting. She is a strong character, governed by the whims of a teenager and the hormonal imbalances of a teenaged mom. The scenes where wrongdoers are called to judgement in the Pit caused conflicting emotions of hating Dar for her blood lust, while feeling empathy for this girl who finds herself responsible for the life of a community. This responsibility, while readily accepted, still seemed an overwhelming burden and one that absolved Dar of some of her worst offenses.

Though the action driven plot moved along at a good clip, the Washington, D.C. characters and scenes seemed more generic and predictable than expected. Perhaps someone who doesn’t read and watch as much apocalyptic and military conspiracy theory as this reader would not have the same opinion, but, for me, the Boston part of the story carried my interest and kept me reading. Overall I preferred the first book, but, as in most trilogies, the second and third books have a higher expectation to meet. For me, this did not meet that expectation.

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Book Review Friday: The Reawakening (The Living Dead Trilogy, Book 1) by Joseph Souza

ImageThe 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.

Book Review Friday: Deadtown

Deadtown, by Nancy Holzner, is not a traditional zombie novel. The heroine, Victory Vaughn, is a shapeshifting demon slayer, not a zombie killer, and the zombies in this fast paced novel live in the confines of a walled-in portion of Boston called Deadtown.

In the world of Victory Vaughn, zombies don’t crave brains, they crave food, especially sugary treats. Twinkies, donuts, and ice cream are consumed in massive quantities and, because they’re zombies, there’s no problem with weight gain. Zombies also aren’t condemned to wander alone until some stray human kills them. Instead they legally live in Designated Area 1, nicknamed Deadtown, with all of the other paranormals, including vampires, werewolves, and demi demons. Deadtown residents can only leave the confines of their neighborhood as long as they have a permit. Caught outside Deadtown without a permit? Not good

The story takes place three years after a virus hits downtown Boston and instantly kills two thousand people in a couple of block radius. Three days later the dead rise and the world is introduced to actual zombies. The immediate joy of having a loved one return from the dead is eventually replaced by the realization that the loved ones are different.

“Their skin was a funny shade of greenish-gray, their movements stiff. They avoided sunlight and spent nights wide-awake. Their superhuman strength and insatiable hunger made them as terrifying as the zombies in any horror flick. And then there was the little problem of blood – the smell of fresh-spilt human blood sent them into a frenzy of hunger. You could calm them down with any kind of food, but the bloodlust did make things awkward sometimes.” Deadtown

Victory Vaughn takes teenage zombie Tina under her wing, rescuing her from the monotony of the group home she lives in and the pain of having parents that want to forget her. Throughout the novel, Tina’s teenage emotions,  tremendous strength,  and voracious appetite, make for an unpredictable combination. As much as Victory wants to be a big sister to this troubled teen, she has other problems to tend to, including a Hellion that threatens to destroy all of Boston.

Deadtown is a great, fun read with exciting characters. Best of all, it shows zombies as more than cardboard cutouts intent on eating brains. Tina the teenage zombie is a feisty character that mirrors the capabilities of real-life zombie kids instead of relying on the stereotypes of the past.  A must-read for our zombie teens.

Click to buy Deadtown (A Deadtown Novel)at Amazon.