(Caution: minor spoilers ahead!)
The fourth installment in an ongoing series (Parts 1 through 3 are available both individually and collected in KELLIE’S DIARY: DECAY OF INNOCENCE; Part 1 is free on Amazon), KELLIE’S DIARY #4 picks up nearly four years after where Part 3 left off. The date is April 6, 1999, and Kellie – just nine years old when we first found her – is a more mature 15 (and a half! Teenagers know how important those fractions are!) In a surprising twist, she, Lydia, Sarah, and Dan are still living with the train people; given Sarah and Dan’s suspicions about leader Mark, I thought for sure that the groups would have parted ways within days or weeks of meeting. While Lydia helps to grow food in the on-board garden, Kellie accompanies the salvage teams as a scout.
It’s on a mission on the outskirts of Los Angeles, in Highland, that things go terribly wrong. The town isn’t just empty of supplies, but seemingly abandoned, and long since. And yet, Kellie and Sarah feel eyes watching silently as they search house after house. Their suspicions are confirmed when, on their second day of scavenging, a group of heavily armed men attempt to hijack the train and steal their provisions. In a horrific scene that floods Kellie’s head with memories of Dr. Crane, one of the thieves shows a little too much interest in young Lydia. It’s in this moment that things really go south.
Though half of the train community manages to escape, a more insidious threat lurks from within in the form of Pastor Paul. A creepy, End Times fundie type, Paul hatches a plot to infect the entire community with zombieosis, thus speeding along “God’s Plan” and delivering everyone to the next world. Luckily, Kellie and Lydia manage to escape – but find themselves in an abandoned industrial district even creepier than the abandoned town they just left behind. Visions of “Bagman” continue to haunt Kellie, who’s becoming increasingly distrustful of her own senses. One thing she can be sure of: she and Lydia are not alone.
KELLIE’S DIARY #4 is a step up from the previous episodes, which are readable enough, but not terribly suspenseful or especially memorable. Part 4 ups the creep factor considerably, and ends at a rather crucial moment. The book also contains the short story SARAH’S DESPAIR (previously published in DECAY OF INNOCENCE) – so, with just 64% of the story down, I was shocked to see it end so abruptly. Shocked, but in a good way! I’m definitely looking forward to Part 5.
As Kellie ages, her writing style matures. This is a huge improvement over the more childish entries in Part 1, which I sometimes found hard to read. With the large gaps in time and consequent rapid aging of the narrator, the focus of the series has necessarily shifted, too: this is no longer a look at the apocalypse through a child’s eyes, but rather those of a young adult. But there’s always younger sister Lydia (seemingly deep in denial, much like the citizens of Woodbury in THE WALKING DEAD) to present the child’s view.
On the downside, aside from Kellie’s discovery of an old Nintendo console, there aren’t nearly as many ’90s references as I’d hoped. Although, to be fair, I guess most of the decade in this universe was spent fighting off the zombie hordes.
In Part 4, the authors shift from a faux diary format (handwriting font, water-stained, college-ruled notebook paper) to a plain-text format, reportedly due to technical and space issues. While the diary format has that authentic feel, I prefer the more readable plain-text format. Parts 1 through 3 use the faux diary format, while DECAY OF INNOCENCE is plain-text. Plan your purchases accordingly!