Top positive review
on 25 October 2014
The fourth book in the Dead World Series by McKinney starts with Ben Richardson trapped in an oven in an abandoned pizza joint in St Louis, looking for food, when a few zombies turn up. But a few can soon become a swarm. However the three zombies are distracted by a woman who calls out to them, and not having seen a person for a very long time, Richardson decides to investigate. Thing is, for some reason he's sure he knows her. But from where? Then it hits him; it's Sylvia Carnes, English Professor.
Eight years ago hurricane Mardell tore apart the city of Houston, and from the soup of the floodwaters the zombies rose, not dead, still alive somehow but infected with a deadly virus. Carnes had been a member of a group that believed in helping the infected. So with forty students she went into the quarantine area of San Antonio to look for a cure. And Ben Richardson accompanied them.
Now, in a dead St Louis, Richardson watches as Carnes joins a group of four other survivors seemingly on a mission. He watches as they are suddenly attacked by a large number of zombies. Obliged to help Richardson moves toward them but is soon shocked to see four trucks pull up towards the group. The Red Man emerges from one of the trucks. And to Richardson's astonishment, the zombies don't attack.
From the off, McKinney's writing is punchy, fast paced and engaging. He draws his characters with effect in just a few pages establishing hopes, dreams, fears and relationships then gets straight into the action. And for the gore hounds there are plenty of moments to enjoy as zombies rip out innards and the blood flows. McKinney has also created variations in the zombies, stages one to three, with one being the slow dumb shamblers and three being the intelligent fast movers. We have a particularly strong female character in Niki Booth especially her awareness, and McKinney's acknowledgement, of how predictable men can sometimes be. He also makes some wry observations about some of the inherent differences between men and women using Sylvia and Ben as examples. And as for Niki, she has a mission. She is intent on finding a cure for the necro filovirus and might just know where to find it. Amidst the gore we also have debates about humanity and about the zombies, philosophical discussions and reflections on poetry; it makes for an unusual yet powerful read.
It's also nice to have the return of regular characters from previous novels in the Dead World Series, such as Nate Royal and Ken Stoler. With Richardson, as he records the experiences of those in this dead world, it's all about sharing those stories and rebuilding from it. He still sees his primary role as a reporter as being of vital importance as the novel begins, but as it progresses it's clear he's tired of it all and doesn't intend to finish his book. For some survivors, like Nate, the apocalypse has given them a new life, something worth clinging to.
With a cast of engaging characters and a terrific ending, this is one to read.