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Stories of those who walk among us...4.5 stars
on August 28, 2009
Among The Living takes place in Seattle and starts out sharing with the reading audience the lives of four different people in the city. The author uses both third and first person perspectives as we go through the routines of their days. Hints of the start of an undead uprising are sprinkled throughout the story but much of the early part of the book keeps that as background noise for most of the characters...there is a gas leak in a neighborhood, it is cordoned off, there are strange stories on the internet but the news networks are saying nothing and the stories are disappearing as quickly as they appear. As the story rolls on we are given small bits and pieces, a few attacks, there is footage found online of some shaky cell phone video, etc. but the city and the main characters, for the most part, have no real comprehension of what is going on until it is far too late.
The author slips from one character to the next with relative ease, pacing the story through their eyes, and in particular, through Mike, a journalist's eyes, who is telling us his story in first person. The other stories, about Lester, a drug dealer caught inside the neighborhood that is originally cordoned off, Kate, a serial killer who is just getting warmed up, and Grinder, the lead singer of a heavy metal band, are all told in third person. Tim does an excellent job of getting us up to speed on all his character's lives and how they act and react to everything going on around them.
I found it particularly interesting that the only person we are given first person exposure to is the journalist and likely the most normal person of the bunch. Mike is dealing with difficult issues but his burgeoning relationship with a co-worker seems a bright spot in a story filled with three other characters who are all, in my humble estimation, disturbed in their own particular ways. It would have been interesting to see the first person perspective of the serial killer, though the insights into her psychy are pretty indepth (I would especially like to see the first person perspective of the "other", which drives Kate to do the horrid things she does).
When it is finally clear that the deaders are at their full strength and their numbers are growing rapidly, the violence is in your face, visceral, and merciless. The author indiscriminantly throws us into the blender and lets us taste the agony of a city that is dying and coming back to life with the undead. A sequel would be natural and makes complete sense because in many ways, this tale has only just begun.
The story is solid and the characters real and fascinating. I kind of figure Tim decided to give us the first person perspective with the more "normal" character of the lot. Since these four barely get to interact during the book, it will be interesting if he decides to carry along with a first person view and see what perceptions Mike develops about the drug dealer, the heavy metal lead singer, and the serial killer.
The book is excellent and Tim, a first time novelist but someone who has written quite a few other works, definitely has some chops as a writer. My only true criticism is that there are some typos sprinkled throughout the book. Nothing that really detracts from the story but they are noticeable. It certainly did not keep me from enjoying the book a great deal and I am looking forward to picking up the sequel down the road when he gets around to writing it.
If you are a fan of zombies or just of apocalyptic fiction in general, this is definitely one to pick up.