Top critical review
A good ending to the series.
on 7 September 2013
The final book in the Morningstar Strain series has a sad story behind it. Author Z.A. Recht tragically passed away in December 2009 at the age of 26, eighteen months after the publication of book #2, and before Survivors was finished. More than two and a half years later, Survivors was finally published after being completed by Thom Brennan, although how much was written by Recht and how much by Brennan is something only Permuted Press and Thom Brennan himself know. It took me nearly another year before I could pick up Survivors, because the Morningstar Strain series was the zombie series that really got me addicted to our undead friends, and as well as being sad to see the series end, I was pretty wary of this book.
If, like me, you are tentative about finishing this series, I personally recommend reading the other books again if it's been a long time since you read them. Time has a way of changing our memories of books, and I probably would have been disappointed with Survivors if I hadn't read Plague of the Dead and Thunder and Ashes again right beforehand.
Both the first books in the series have multiple perspectives, but Survivors goes one further and includes one more group that haven't really been sighted since the beginning of Thunder and Ashes. Unlike many multiple-perspective books I read, this one didn't have me reading quickly through perspectives I cared less about to get to the 'good stuff' - all the perspectives were relevant, interesting and added an extra level to the story.
Part way through I was thinking that the character development was a little bit lacking, but it definitely picks up in the second half as the psychology of survival and guilt starts to come into play with some of the original characters and it begins to affect how they function both negatively and positively.
The big question is whether I could tell the difference between the writing of Z.A. Recht and Thom Brennan. To be perfectly honest, even with reading Thunder and Ashes immediately before starting Survivors, I couldn't really discern a difference. Survivors is certainly paced on the same level as the first two books, and although it felt more 'military ops', that feeling was also there in Thunder and Ashes in particular.
Whether it was the intention of Recht or a product of the writing of Brennan, one thing that I always appreciate (enjoy is the wrong word) is a writer who isn't scared of killing off characters that you think are going to make it through - it makes the story more realistic and intense, even if it's emotionally shocking and there were a couple of them that I wanted to make it through that didn't.
And the ending? Whilst I didn't want the book to end, I found the ending to be rather fitting although for some readers it may be a little bit more open-ended than satisfying. I'm sad to say goodbye to this series, but I am glad I read the final book.