Friday Book Review: Zombie Attack: Rise of the Horde

After finishing book 1 of Devan Sagliani’s Zombie Attack! Rise of the Horde, it was clear why this is listed as both an Amazon best seller and the Goodreads 2012 best zombie/horror e-book of 2012. The narrator, Xander, is a wise beyond his years, katana wielding 16-year-old who is waiting out the zombie apocalypse at Vandenberg AFB. A loner in a small group of mostly military family members who have survived to this point, Xander spends his time practicing martial arts and waiting to be reunited with his soldier brother. When Xander comes across a gang of base bullies tormenting 12-year-old Benji, Xander springs into action with the moves of a young Chuck Norris. In the aftermath, he’s a loner no more and Benji makes a great companion, full of the enthusiasm and excitement which provides a great contrast with Xander’s at times dour and pessimistic view of the world.

When zombie hordes overrun the base, Xander is one of the few that is quick enough and skilled enough to find an escape route. His little shadow, Benji, keeps close and follows along.  Forced to run for their lives, the unlikely duo must outwit fellow survivors, a task made more difficult by Xander’s belligerent teen male posturing and bravado. Much like the sword he carries, Xander is a sharp instrument who doesn’t mind drawing first blood. Benji manages to smooth the rough edges and every time Xander veers toward assholery, Benji pulls him back. It’s a sweet little brother-big brother relationship that left this reader looking forward to meeting Xander’s big brother, Moto, and seeing if that dynamic mirrors this one.

So, there’s relationships, an ineffective government response to zombies, and a rapidly decreasing number of survivors, yet Rise of the Horde doesn’t focus on the blood and gore part of the zombie apocalypse and doesn’t present stereotypical villains. Yes, there are scared townspeople. Yes, there is a crazy cult leader. Yes, there are biker gangs. But the great part of this tale is the care and depth the author uses in describing these so-called villains and their followers. They are individual, memorable, and as capable of evil as they are of redemption. Xander approaches each new encounter with a healthy skepticism of their motives and a tactician’s ability to see past the surface to the moves below.

Certainly one of the best YA zombie books I’ve read, it’s reassuring to know that once you’ve reached the end of Rise of the Horde, Sagliani has a second installment, Zombie Attack: Army of the Dead, available. Zombie Attack! Rise of the Horde is compelling, authentic, and worthy of the reader’s time. If you’ve already read it, let me know what you thought of it in the comments. If you haven’t read it, go buy a copy and update me after you’re done. This one’s a steal, currently at 99 cents on Amazon.

 

Book Review Friday: Heal The Sick, Raise the Dead by Jacob Prytherch

Guy leaves the safety of an island to find the few remaining traces of humanity in a world devoured by the undead. Accompanied by three strange and inhuman companions, Guy embarks on a journey that will either cure or destroy them all.

Heal The Sick, Raise The Dead is one of those zombie novels I hate to describe as a zombie novel. It feels much larger and more involved than a typical shoot-’em-up zombie novel. It’s part Hans Christian Anderson fairytale/horror story, part psychological thriller. Yes, there are zombies. Lots of them in fact. There’s carnage and rotting and gnashing teeth but the story isn’t trapped in the decaying world but in the head of its survivor.

One of the highlights of Heal the Sick, Raise the Dead is the pacing. Most zombie stories try to maintain a frenetic pace that makes reading a chore. There are only so many twists and turns and nonstop action a person can take before it stops being exciting and starts being exhausting. Heal the Sick is a journey and that’s reflected in the plot and pacing. That’s not to say it isn’t exciting but it isn’t an edge of your seat page turner. It’s a methodical and almost hypnotic journey through the mind and view of a survivor. The slow unveiling of the characters and plot made it something to savor rather than devour.

The novel did have some flaws. Like most indie/self pub, there are a few spelling and context errors though nothing unreadable. Additionally, the ultimate reveal felt slightly  heavy-handed after such a delicate story. Mr. Prytherch did such a fantastic job building up the suspense for the final reveal that the back story seemed to drag on when I was ready for resolution.

Heal The Sick, Raise The Dead is an innovative and interesting story worth reading (and re-reading). For readers who like more thought and conscience behind their zombie lore, this is a must read. Heal the Sick, Raise the Dead is available on kindle and paperback. If you enjoy Jacob Prytherch’s work, he has another fantastic zombie short story, Just One Day, which we reviewed back in January.