Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The zombies came in two by two....

Rise Again: A Zombie Thriller

by Ben Tripp

Gallery Books

Release: 26 October 2010

Somewhere in the middle of this book, a character wryly observes that the disastrous events in the book would make a perfect movie of the week. It's a sentiment more than a few readers will undoubtedly share, as we are hurled along at breakneck speed through this energetic tale of a zombie apocalypse and what happens after.

Ben Tripp’s debut novel embraces a number of time - honoured tropes from the horror genre – monsters (flesh-eating and otherwise), a swashbuckling heroine with a troubled past and a yen for danger, a motley crew of mismatched survivors who must evolve into a team or die trying - and allhellzapoppin' opportunities for carnage. This could easily have been just another gory yarn about zombies; what sets it apart is its taut narrative, dark humour, strong characters and a flair for description that will leave the writer as gore-drenched as its characters. ‘Rise Again’ is a lively new addition to the ranks of the fictional undead.

So Sheriff Danny Adelman wakes up on the Fourth of July in picturesque all-American Forest Peak, California,to a terrible hangover, a neglected sister who has finally run away with her prized Mustang, and the prospect of enduring a day of festive locals and bored tourists. That’s the good part of the day. For the town is soon swarming with panic stricken refugees in the throes of a mysterious disease that is both highly contagious and leaves the infected inexplicably dead in mid-stride. Worse, all communication with the outside world breaks down, except for a single computer generated message relaying on the weather band of her police radio - “ The infected dead will rise again.

Sure enough, the undead are soon shuffling through the streets, glassy eyed and oblivious to their grieving relatives, prompting a character to wonder if human-zombie unions will soon replace gay marriages as “..the hot button relationship issue.” As Danny struggles to comprehend what is slowly turning out to be a global disaster, and takes over as reluctant Noah to an edible Ark of squabbling survivors, she realizes Forest Peak has far more than odd couples to worry about. For the radio message now warns…”The dead eat living flesh.

Now what more, you may ask, is there to say about the zombie (rechristened 'zero' by Tripp) apocalypse that Richard Matheson’s genre-defining novel ‘I Am Legend’ , George Romero’s celluloid classic ‘Night of the Living Dead’ and the legion of screen and print variations on the undead theme that is their infected spawn, haven’t already? After all, we've read and read again of virus-tainted, spirit-haunted or just plain differently evolved nasties chomp through the ensemble cast , right?

The characters in ‘Rise Again’ wonder as much, as they ponder zero-slaying techniques culled from the movies they’ve watched. “Anybody born after 1940 knows,” says Wulf, the town derelict and resident Rambo.”.When a zombie shows up, you gotta smash its head. Destroy the brain.” Simple enough, right? Cumbersome. Messy. Time consuming.. but then again, when the world as you know it doesn't exist any longer, what do you have but time?

But as Danny and gang soon discover, it will take more than the mere smashing, hacking and blasting of former tax payers to stay uneaten. For even as humans revert to the primeval, the undead are swiftly evolving from lumbering, almost comical, creatures into lethal predators that are capable of stealth, ambush and hunting in packs. Yet it would seem only Danny can see this evolution; the rest of humankind - myopic Senators, frivolous thrill junkies, rogue mercenaries – refuses to believe that they are no longer on top of the food chain.

“The end of the world was here”, Danny observes, after narrowly escaping an attack of zeros, “..and as always… it was up to the unimaginative, fighting, enduring types., like (her) , to pick up the pieces and carry on. The ones that got wiped out were the interesting people.

Don’t believe her. Danny is a hero as compelling as they come, an alpha female equal parts damage and daring, with a strong maternal instinct that keeps her on the trail of her sister and an elusive redemption.( Think a terrestrial Ellen Ripley, accessorized with a truckload of emotional baggage.) A decorated war hero with the physical and emotional scars to show for it, Danny seems more at ease slaying zeros than being among people who care for her, and this book is equally about her journey from lone ranger to tribe member. As for that quest, prepare to be surprised .

Thanks to Corinne Marrinan for sending me a copy of the book to review.

Meanwhile, zombies seem to be the flavour of the week, for here
I am, midway through the terrific 'Dreadnought' by Cherie Priest and what havee we here, but boxloads of the undead.

Also, just finished 'The Half-Made World', Felix Gilman's stunning new novel which has no zombies per se, but does have something to say about being enslaved by ideas. More on these soon.

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