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Reanimates the Zombie Genre
on 9 August 2011
Hands down the best Zombie novel I've read this year, easily in the top ten for overall best novel of the year. And I've read a fair few good-uns.
First and foremost, this is a beautifully written, well paced, horrific adventure novel. So much so, it feels like the work of a far more experienced writer. It is the quality of the narrative and the deft handling of the emotion of this story that gives it its brilliance. Some recent gems of the genre like Rhiannon Frater's 'As the World Dies' and Jonathan Maberry's 'Patient Zero' succeed because of the quality of the idea realised through average-to-good storytelling. 'Rise Again' is a stonkingly good, cleverly plotted, deftly handled, adrenaline soaked, quality read that happens to have zombies.
'Rise Again' is different from many other zombie novels out there due to the author's investment in ratcheting up the tenison as a small town and then society as we knows it goes to hell. Don't get me wrong, it's not a slow book at all. It fairly thrums along right from the start but it is first and foremost quality character development that drives this tale. By the time the mayhem really hits its relentless stride, you are so invested in the characters and the set up that your heart sits firmly in your mouth for the rest of the book. And there really is precious little let up of tension throughout. This is intelligent, original horror.
Danny Adelman, the main character is the town's sheriff. She has completed three tours of Iraq, suffered life altering injuries and come back home changed. Everyone notices it, but no one says it. Friends, family all find her hard work and difficult and she alienates them all, incapable of connecting with others. Hypervigilant and frighteningly capable, Danny exists in a frenzy of control and organisation by day. At night she works on a serious alcohol dependency and is ill suited to the small town life she is living. This is the reality of Danny's life when we meet her and she's slowly imploding.
The novel starts with a typical small town 4th July festival with Danny judging who made the best chilli whilst fighting not to throw up from her hangover. Slowly the day becomes nightmareish. There is a gradual disolving of normalcy that is incredibly well handled. Is Danny jumpy from too little sleep, post traumatic stress disorder and a hangover or is the creeping unease she feels real?
Where a writer of less quality would allow the accelerator to be hit too fast, crashing and burning, Tripp holds his nerve. This is echoed by Danny herself, moving the story forward at a pace that ensures you as a reader are constantly existing in a state of tension. Initially, people running and screaming, a dead body turning up, are handled in a rational, believeable, police procedural manner. Yet the weirdness keeps deepening until suddenly we are hip deep in zombies and flailing to stay upright. And here, the characteristics that make for Danny's fractured domestic existance allow for the perfect survival instinct in a world where the dead have risen and the living are often just as much a threat- through either incompetence or outright malevolent design. Suddenly, Danny is in her element, a powerful formidable, intelligent foe to the risen dead and the unscrupulous living. The personal story arc of Danny is what made this such a quality read for me.
This is a gory novel, given the subject matter that shouldn't be a surprise. There are entrails a-flying and avid descriptions of trauma and dismemberment so multisensory you will swear you can smell the blood, guts and decomposition. But it isn't dwelt on salaciously, instead presented in an exquisitely realised illumination of life under a new world order.
If the novel has a fault (apart from the fact that it ended when I wanted this to just go on and on it was so good) it is that occasionally, Tripp cuts away from one crucial part of action to another equally exciting event but then doesn't entirely pick up again from where he left off when you return. But I am being picky. I just enjoyed this so much I really didn't want to miss a thing nor hear it told after the event. Please don't let that put you off. This truly is an epic horror tale, handled by a new yet assured and exciting voice who has a cracking tale to tell us. Superb narative, fantastic style, great characters, well handled pace are all here.
And if you think you've 'been there, done that' with the Zombie genre, trust me, Mr Tripp has some excellent surprises in store for you, respectful of the genre yet electrifying and just begging for a sequel to deliver them, kicking and screaming fully into the light. I'm not gonna spoil it by telling you what they are though. Order it, read it for yourself and be prepared to immerse yourself in this one till its done. It will hold you tight and snap its teeth right in your face till you've finished!
Highly recommended. Mr Tripp, please please write some more books!