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on 8 October 2008
Empire provides a refreshing look at how zombie stories could and probably should be. From start to finish Dunwoody serves up as many surprises as he does brains and guts.

In a genre that is getting old and tired, rife with the Romero shuffler or the 28 days runner this book provides a welcome variety sadly lacking in today's undead entertainment. Empire deals with what happens 100 years after the dead have won, in a world where humans have only ever known fear and suffering. As a few survivors clutch to old habits and responsibilities there are those that have plans stemming from even older traditions.

The story progresses from the point of view of several groups of survivors, each with their own well-developed backstory. As Empire moves towards its conclusion via rich subplots and twists galore you won't want to put it down.
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on 8 June 2012
Given my penchant for post-apocalyptica, it's no real surprise that I gravitated towards Empire by David Dunwoody, a post-apocalyptic tale where the undead have ravaged the earth and pockets of mankind across the continental US fight for survival.

It's fair to say that the premise behind Empire is a little different to the usual zombie affair; zombie sharks, rats, dogs, birds; but the human zombies are the most interesting... "rotters" don't just die with the obligatory headshot as per the usual zombie lore but they must be incinerated also to totally eliminate them. Additionally, these zombies aren't the usual shambling flesh hungry ghouls (although, there are plenty of them here) but these zombies can regenerate through the consumption of flesh and retain some higher functions, minimal levels of speech, can carry out basic tasks, respond to commands... and think.

This is quite different to your classic zombie but I suggest that you give it a chance.

Empire, I would suggest, is an action horror with what I consider a novel aspect with the inclusion of the Grim Reaper despatching zombies. This may sound a little bizarre and to be honest, I was a little wary, thinking this book might go all Old Testament on me; but like I said about the regenerating zombies, just go with it and enjoy Dunwoody's well structured tale for its entertainment value which will keep you amused and turning pages.

With the inclusion of the Grim Reaper riding around on his pale horse, delivering zombies to their second death, I'd suggest that Empire and Dunwoody's imagination have created a story that does not lend itself well to transferring to the big screen. However, for me, this is one of the charms of reading books, there is really only the limit of what the author's mind can conjure up as to what can actually occur.

The story starts out in a classic format of what appears to be random character strands/ chapters whose backstories develop nicely and their fates intertwine as the book progresses. However, I am left feeling that Empire, when all is said and done, is still an action horror with a fairly linear plot and felt like a bit of a prelude to the sequel rather than a solid entry on its own merit.
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Finally, there comes a novel that deals with the one victim of a zombie apocalypse that few ever consider: Death, the Grim Reaper, the dude with the big scythe. Just imagine, you're doing your job well for untold years - with nary a vacation day, I might add - and then suddenly all those dead souls you're supposed to collect just start falling off the radar. Over a century after the outbreak began, Death finally takes it upon himself to get up close and personal with the undead. While he may not be the central character in David Dunwoody's post-apocalyptic vision, Death does make for the most interesting one. Most of the action, however, centers around a small population of living survivors in and around Jefferson Harbor, Louisiana.

The year is 2112, and America has changed drastically in the 105 years since the zombie outbreak began. In the nation's increasingly shrinking borders, a state of proverbial martial law exists, with power centralized in a permanent body of Senators who are basically implementing a retreat and fortify campaign against the undead. Louisiana is among the territories now being abandoned by federal troops. Of course, some people refuse to leave or cannot leave for reasons beyond their control. Among these are a cop who sees it as his duty to try and protect those who remain, members of a rock group on a USO-like tour for the troops, a photojournalist, and several denizens of a homeless shelter. Then there is Baron Tetch and his "brothers and sisters" residing in a fortified manor house in the swamps outside Jefferson City. The swampland has special properties that make those reborn into death there somewhat intelligent, and Tetch has worked to train and control these special zombies to do his bidding. He dreams of a new empire built upon the ashes of the old civilization, to be ruled by himself and Lily, a teenaged girl he has raised and protected since she was a child. Of course, Lily is just blossoming into a woman and begins to have ideas of her own, and it is she who will forge the link between Death and these disparate other characters as the story plays out.

Dunwoody tends to jump around between different character groups, which was a bit disconcerting early on, and the fact that some minor characters tend to come and go rather quickly made it even harder to keep some of them straight in my mind. Also, particularly toward the end, transitions between different sections of chapters were not always identified, which became a little annoying. On the positive side, these pages are filled with violence and blood. A regular old mindless zombie is bad enough, but zombies who can use weapons and coordinate their attacks to some degree guarantee that many a character you meet along the way will not survive until the end. All in all, Empire is a great read and quite an impressive entry in the zombie genre. It's great to see someone besides Terry Pratchett include Death as a character, and I really liked that angle and the unusual viewpoint it provided. Zombie fans should eat this one up.
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on 1 September 2009
I'm not really sure what to make of this story. Basically, if you like zombie novels then give it a go, but if you don't then stay clear. There are some interesting ideas going on, but I found the whole thing a little bit confusing and I had seen most of those good ideas somewhere before.

This zombie story is unusual in that it's set around 100 years after a zombie pandemic destroys a significant portion of the world. Most zombie novels are over within a very short time frame after the outbreak occurs, but in this one there is some sort of civilisation a long time later. There's no apparent end to the zombie menace, but people are basically getting on with things, mostly inside walled cities, and there is some sort of semi-functioning government, army and police force (and even luxuries such rock stars and journalists!), not just people struggling to survive. It's a bit of a grim existance, but it's a lot better than I would have thought possible given the circumstances.

The story is set in a city in Louisiana and features a variety of groups of people. They all have some sort of background and sub-plot, some of which come together as the story progresses. That's great, but some of these sub-plots are never really resolved in my opinion, and there are some very weird characters. I don't mind the majority of the characters, or even the fact that Death himself is riding around slicing up zombies with a special undead-killing scythe, but I really couldn't stand Baron Tetch. He lives in the nearby swamp with one living girl and a group of 'pet' zombies that he has some sort of magical hold over. He reminded me of the 'Monster Nation' and 'Monster Planet' books by David Wellington, but not done as well.

Anyway, I'm rambling a bit. If you're a zombie fan, then by all means read this book. It's not bad, but don't expect a masterpiece.
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on 4 June 2009
I've read nearly every zombie book out there I guess so I had to read this too. It's a bit odd really with 'Death' riding about killing zombies and some very strange other stuff going on. Well written over-all I guess but not that great on the storyline. I found it a little too easy to put down (and read four other books while this was on the go). But you never know maybe this is just the book for you if you collect 'zombie' and want a departure from the 'science/virus' approach.
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