10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Keene's finest zombie tale
There are many who feel Brian Keene's zombie smash The Rising remains the pinnacle of his artistic achievements as a writer. It was a huge success and was certainly a hard act to follow, as it would have been for any new writer. But while I enjoyed The Rising, my opinion diverges from the majority. Prior to the release of Dead Sea, my personal favorite Keene novel was...
Published on August 6, 2007 by Bryan Smith
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Row Row Row your boat gently down...OH CRAP A ZOMBIE!
Having already read 'The Rising' and 'City of the Dead', 'Dead Sea' was quite a let down. If I had read this book first, I might have enjoyed it more than I did.
In 'Dead Sea', Keene uses the traditional type of zombies that George Romero first gave us. The slow moving, not really thinking, very hungry type of zombie. Once again we start off with almost the...
Published on April 21, 2008 by M. B Cole
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Keene's finest zombie tale,
This review is from: Dead Sea (Mass Market Paperback)There are many who feel Brian Keene's zombie smash The Rising remains the pinnacle of his artistic achievements as a writer. It was a huge success and was certainly a hard act to follow, as it would have been for any new writer. But while I enjoyed The Rising, my opinion diverges from the majority. Prior to the release of Dead Sea, my personal favorite Keene novel was The Conqueror Worms, which also happened to be his least commercially successful novel. One of the things I admired most about The Conqueror Worms is that it did not feature a standard-issue hero. The elderly narrator of the first and third sections of Worms was a man who fought as best he could within his limitations, and I felt this was a finely drawn character. In Dead Sea, Keene gives us another hero not cut from the usual cloth. The narrator is a gay black male named Lamar Reed. The fact that he is gay and black are treated as facts of his existence and are not present to browbeat the non-progressive segement of the audience. Instead they inform the narrative in subtle and effective ways throughout. Lamar Reed is gay and black, yes, but in the end he is just another man fighting with everything he has to stay alive in a world gone to hell. And Keene's depiction of him is one of his finest moments as an author. I wouldn't say Dead Sea actually eclipses The Conqueror Worms as my favorite Brian Keene novel, but it is a very close thing, a virtual DEADlock. Do yourself a favor and get a copy now. Very highly recommended.
15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Keene strikes again,
This review is from: Dead Sea (Mass Market Paperback)DEAD SEA takes the idea of animals becoming zombies (that the author introduced in his first zombie novel THE RISING) and basically goes berserk with it. A bunch of survivors take to the sea in an old ship that has been turned into a floating museum. Figuring they've escaped the human undead, the soon discover the virus (known here as "Hamelin's Revenge) has spread from rats to humans . . . and now to sea life.
No one writes zombie stories like Keene, and the nods to JAWS and MOBY DICK are fine touches in what may be one of his most satisfying novels to date. You'll love this one.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Row Row Row your boat gently down...OH CRAP A ZOMBIE!,
This review is from: Dead Sea (Mass Market Paperback)Having already read 'The Rising' and 'City of the Dead', 'Dead Sea' was quite a let down. If I had read this book first, I might have enjoyed it more than I did.
In 'Dead Sea', Keene uses the traditional type of zombies that George Romero first gave us. The slow moving, not really thinking, very hungry type of zombie. Once again we start off with almost the whole world taken over by zombies already. This time though, Keene takes a minute to fill us in on how it began though which was quite interesting, but nothing really new. To become a zombie in this book you have to have bodily fluid contact. Such as biting, or blood being splattered in your eyes or an open wound, or even having sex with a zombie. Not saying that happens, but it's just a possibility. Though if you die a natural cause or were already dead before the outbreak, you won't become a zombie.
Now I liked `Dead Sea'. I really did. I think if I had read it before `The Rising' or `City of the Dead', then I might have liked it more than I did. But this time around there just doesn't seem like a lot of action or much to keep me interested. The book starts off really good and even makes me think of the book `I Am Legend' since the main character, Lamar, is alone in his house a little bit before and after his roommate. Boarded up while secretly looking outside. Trying to live a normal live within a hellish nightmare. When Lamar has to make a break for it, it gets even better. Running from slow shuffling zombies sounds pretty easy I would think. But not so much when you are in city filled with smoke because it's burning down. Keene's detail during this part of the book is pretty good. I felt like I was there with a torn shirt around my face, wet with water to help prevent inhaling all the smoke around me. Running through thin alleyways trying to get away from the thousands upon thousands of zombies slowly moving towards me.
And that's about it for me. That was the best part of the book. When Lamar and company arrived at the boat, I was out of breath from all the action. Once `we' got on the boat I felt like I just stepped onto the `WTF just happened to this story' cruise. It was rough getting through most of the boat part. We were introduced to A LOT of characters and got a little back-story on each one. I'm guessing to make us `feel' for these people when they get killed later. I really didn't give a crap for most of them until we were down to a few because I could actually remember who was who.
I really can't tell what Keene was thinking though through this book. Once again it seems like he has a ton of ideas flying through his head while he's writing, to only come up short with them. It almost felt like, at the end, he was kind of pissed at where he went with his story and instead of changing it, he decided to just end it without giving the reader much of an ending to continue with in another book or at least in their imaginations.
And one last thing, I think Keene has a great imagination. But there was this one part close to the end (I'm not going to spoil anything) where I IMMEDIATELY said to myself, "Duh... this is going on"...and of course it was going on because we've all seen it a million times. I then asked a friend what he would think if he saw this going on and he said the same thing as me...lol. I couldn't believe Keene did that because, to me, usually his main character is pretty smart and doesn't fall for the stupid crap that happens in movies all the time. It was really lame and disappointing.
But like I said... I liked this book. It was an OK read. Just make sure if you are going to read it, to please read it before `The Rising' and `City of the Dead'.
P.S. I didn't like that Keene referenced one of the main characters from 'The Rising' and 'City of the Dead'. Pretty black girl with track marks on her arms with the name of Frankie. Wow. Come on Keene...don't give a nod to your own books man... lol. Now if the book had been based on a completely different character in a different part of the world in the same 'world' as 'The Rising', then yeah... that would've been cool. Just my opinion.
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 3X's the Charm!,
This review is from: Dead Sea (Mass Market Paperback)Before I get ripped to shreds by Keene fans like so many slow-moving humans in his books, let me explain:
"The Rising" to me was a very good, but not excellent, installment that breathed new, fetid life into the Zombie genre. I thought that Keene had some great ideas, characters, and set pieces for a very involving story. My only knock is that Keene slowed the pace at times with his vivd description of the undead masses - not that it was bad, but after 200 pages, we know that the zombies are rotting! I felt this was a minor problem, and maybe it was just me, with what was otherwise a very good book.
"City of the Dead". Where do I start with this one? There seemed to be a few problems with this one. The writing was not up to par; It felt like Keene was going for cheap thrills and the story went on a tangent with Ob and the assault by the undead. In and of itself, this was an ok book, but not what I wanted after "The Rising" showed so much promise! Not to mention the similarities w/ "Land of the Dead", which came out around the same time - the last vestiges of humanity holed up in a skyscraper (check), A maniacal madman, owner of said tower, holding sway over his rescued flock (check), the undead gaining some sentience and assaulting the tower (check). I didn't like the movie, and was not a huge fan of Keene's book.
Enter, "Sea of the Dead". Ahhhh. This, my friends, is zombie bliss. Keene presents us with an masterfully crafted, suspenseful, violent, horrific tale of society, and the world around us, crumbling under the power of a virus that infects it's hosts and reanimates them with a taste for flesh and a penchant for timely infections! Superb book, highly recommended to all horror and zombie fans. I'm keeping the description brief with this one because there is too much in the book that can be spoiled with a review; suffice it to say you will not be disappointed in this novel!
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pied Piper of Zombies,
This review is from: Dead Sea (Mass Market Paperback)I cannot be the only one who looks at the cover art to Brian's books and says "I could have done a better job than that!"
Okay, onto the review. I have read Keene's books for years now, my favorite being the "The Rising" I am an enthusiast of anything zombie, even though technically in that book and its sequels, they were demons in human clothing. I enjoyed "city of the dead" and "the conqueror worms" but longed for the good old fashioned shuffling smelly zombies I know and love. "The Dead Sea" gives me those back, thank ob, no more demon possessed but plenty of carnage for everyone. The zombies are animated by "Hamelins Revenge" a nod to the Pied Piper story because it starts out with Rats, but unlike the black plague the rats aren't spreading something you will catch and be buried with, you will turn into a rotting, reeking, mess. Here our story is told by Lamar, a gay black man who finds two black children and wrestles with the whole "Hero" stigma. They all eventually end up on a retired Navy Vessel along with 20 or so survivors. Hamelins revenge jumps species and our little group must contend with the main question "when will it jump again" and when it does "how much longer can we survive" As usual in Keene's books, his descriptions make my gorge rise the man can describe how rot smells like no other! He likes the Ooey Gooey, and isn't afraid to show it! I liked the book, didn't love it, but it was entertaining and gave me a zombie snack to chew on till I can find another book.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning!,
This review is from: Dead Sea (Mass Market Paperback)I read Dead Sea right after The Rising. I must say the intrinsic qualities of Dead Sea were so much higher that it almost felt like Dead Sea had been written by another author who seems to have gained in maturity, exploring darker sides of the mankind's psychology. The focus is no longer so much on raw physical violence and gore than on the intimate distress of "everyday life people".
Dead Sea is the story of a group of people, among whom some characters are quite peculiar and very far from the mainstream -which makes the plot even more interesting- who happen to "tumble" onto one another in the aftermath of a behemoth city fire, fleeing the danger while simultaneously trying to evade the plague of the living deads. They make it to the sea, where they embark on a ship. The story takes us onboard too and have us share the life and struggle of the survivors.
What is so remarkable in this book is the quality of the description of the characters' personalities and their trains of thoughts. Unlike what he did in his previous books, the author apparently decided to give a much stronger focus onto the lives and doubts and wishes and, overall, what makes people's characters so subtle and fragile at the same time. With all of their flaws and weaknesses, these survivors really are attaching and credible people, and one can't help but empathize with the core group of unfortunate chaps. Thanks largely to the quality of their description by the author, those people are just like us, far from perfect. That makes the story all the more interesting as the reader can relate to them easily.
Also, death is everywhere, and credible too, as it strikes people in the very random way we are accustomed to in real life. Death spares no one: women and men, heroes and villains, kids and elders, blacks and whites, the poor and the rich... Everybody is equal in front of death. Another balanced and credible view of the world which makes the book so interesting.
There is also a strong, underlying, Romero-like criticism of many of the values that we, as a society, have established as supreme in our daily life. Religion, materialism, the military, politics, media, the police etc. do not provide any efficient material, or psychological, or ethical help in fighting a plague that is of such a magnitude. Question is: when everything falls apart around you at once, what makes you fight? Basically, the book is really about the ultimate, desperate, irreversible end of the world as we know it and how people could react in the turmoil. The evil disease is global, cureless, merciless, transmissible from species to species, mutating and adaptive. A real nightmare. Boy, I would hate to find myself living in such a world...
But the author also makes us question: what use is mankind's intimate self-preservation reflex when there is absolutely no more hope around? What makes us hope? What is hope? I have personally loved the fact that the book had me think about these things.
The icing on the cake is probably the excellent book ending, which leaves room to the reader for some personal interpretation. Depending on your mind, mood or personality, you may be drawn to see the light at the end of the tunnel or, on the contrary, find yourself in a bottomless pit, with absolutely no hope in sight.
A very good book indeed.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars More shaking of the undead moneymaker,
This review is from: Dead Sea (Mass Market Paperback)Brian Keene's zombie novels have sold fairly well, and have a huge fan following. This newest outing is a love letter from Keene to his zombie-loving fans and also not coincidentally a way for the author to make some more money by giving the fanboys what they want. But is it any good? Read on...
*** Ahoy, Spoilers Below Deck! ***
Keene's newest zombie novel is probably his best one yet, but still formulaic and predictable for those who read his earlier books. The zombie plague here is an organic one, not based on demonic possession as in Keene's two earlier zombie books - in other words "Dead Sea" is a separate universe from Keene's other zombie apocalypse books. This one is pretty much similar though, with the added hazard of the plague being communicated through bodily fluids. The (limited) good news for our human cast though is that the zombies can't use guns, cars, and artillery this time around.
Our lead is Lamar, a gay unemployed black man with a history of petty crime. To his surprise, Lamar becomes a heroic figure by saving the life of two kids during his escape from the collapsing Baltimore, and he and the kids soon join a cast of about twenty survivors on a Coast Guard cruiser that is searching for refuge along the Atlantic Seaboard.
If you've read Keene before, you know that the search is a pretty futile one, and if you've ever seen or read any horror media before, you know most of the generic cast of survivors is going to be down and out for the count pretty quickly. Along the way there is plenty of head shots and gut munching and various zombified critters like fish, cows, and birds, also a Keene specialty.
The difference here is that the nautical setting helps keep Keene focused. Instead of his misguided attempts to portray an epic cast and setting in his two previous zombie books, the small cast and tight narrative centered on a few characters makes this story work a lot better than his earlier books. Plus Keene has done a lot of research on the oceanic setting and ships, so his facts ring a lot more convincingly this time. The tight focus helps keep the plot moving and adds more suspense than usual to the adventures of the protagonists.
The absence of Ob the demonic windbag helps this book immensely and the more limited zombie opponents keeps things more sporting than Keene's alternate zombie world interpretations. The action sequences are more precisely and carefully written, and many of the characters have more depth and ability to engage the reader this time around. Lamar in particular is an excellent and unusual protagonist with an honest to goodness "character arc".
What's not to like? Keene evidently has gotten into Jung / Campbell archetypology and wants to share this mildly interesting philosophical system with the reader. Far too many pages are taken up by talking head "NPC" type fellow survivors who live just long enough to impart their collegiate style syllabi on the issue of heroic figures in myth and psychology before getting munched by the walking dead.
This is not uninteresting material, but it is a tad out of place in a horror novel and it takes up too much space. Eventually most of the cast is massacred "off-screen" and this most unsporting twist appears to be necessitated by all the excess time Keene has spent telling us about the eternal spirit of the hero. A different and welcome change in pace from his earlier work and I like to see ideas discussed in horror, but maybe not at this length and maybe not in such jarring scenes of artificial and tedious exposition that catapult the reader out of the plot so suddenly.
Other issues: as usual, Keene just keeps ratcheting up the bleakness until by the end of the book, his surviving characters are doomed and hopeless. I guess a pleasant Pollyanna sort of ending would be too discordant, but a little bit of hope or even ambiguity would be welcome. Starving survivors on a deserted oil rig surrounded by a world of zombie fish and fowls is both a bad ending to their specific story and also very derivative of Keene's earlier novels.
Finally, on the narrative level, a key plot point, Professor Fisherman's infection by the zombie fish, seems a bit of malus ex machina, as the inter-species jump capability of the disease is well known to all the survivors, and the behavior of the zombie fish is so patently odd that no one figuring out the risk of infection to the professor seems quite unlikely. The resulting massacre conveniently speeds up the plot a bit and gets rid of all the remaining generic "zombie fodder" characters. Sort of a clumsy way to handle the matter, but not a big deal.
All in all, this novel is the best of Keene's zombie novels. It is more than a bit similar to his other zombie (or worm) apocalypse books, and even if you are a Keene fan, unless you're also rabidly committed to reading the same book over and over again, you may find this a bit superfluous. If you have not read Keene so far, this is a good start. I personally am encouraged to see Keene developing better plot control and characterization style, and I look forward to seeing what he does in the future.
I do hope he eventually just stops writing these zombie books though - he is capable of a lot more, and the amount of innovation an author can wring out of the same old setting and plot, particularly this one, is pretty much a classic example of diminishing returns. David Wellington's zombie books, as uneven as they are, at least show some example of new zombie world concepts. Keene's sparks of authorial innovation seem to be most evident in his non-zombie work so I would like to see him move more in that direction.
16 of 22 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Dead Sea: aka, Joseph Campbell Cliff's Notes,
This review is from: Dead Sea (Mass Market Paperback)This book seems a major step backward from the innovative "the Rising." The inital chapters, involving the protagonist Lamar's escape from zombie-infested Baltimore, move along at a healthy pace. Once he reaches the relative safety of the Coast Guard cutter Spratling, however, things come to a screeching halt. We're introduced to a couple of stock characters (the cop, the professor, the captain), and a dozen or so interchangeable zombie fodder. Instead of spending the peaceful "downtime" learning more about these characters, however, we're treated to page after page after page of characters summarizing what they've read in Joseph Campbell's books on mythology. ("Am I a monomyth? Funny, I don't feel like a monomyth.")
Keene spends so much time on his "The Power of Myth" book report, that in the end, the majority of the cast has to be killed off-screen. On the whole, there are a number of interesting ideas here that deserve to be fleshed out a lot more fully than Keene has done. Perhaps his next project could be a companion piece, detailing what was going on while Lamar was chewing the fat in his book club.
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Keene delivers another ZOMBIEfest!!,
This review is from: Dead Sea (Mass Market Paperback)Having read this a month or so ago...(thanks to the 1st reviewer of this book, heh heh) I found DEAD SEA to have strong writing, a very unique main character and a plot that upon first glance seemed too easy, but is more complex as you delve further into this book. Keene delivers another original Zombiefest full of great scenes, original thoughts and an ending no one should have a problem with.
All in all I prefer Keene's non-Zombie books but this one rocks and you will have an enjoyable time with DEAD SEA.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I need more!,
This review is from: Dead Sea (Kindle Edition)I only gave this 4 stars simply because I am greedy and the story ended far too soon to suit me! From the first page to the last I suffered right along with Lamar and the rest of the characters, and their fate -what became of them AFTER the story ended- left me wanting more. Am I greedy? Yes. Would I love to see a sequel that gives the reader some sense of hope? Yes ... but don't let that stop you from enjoying this book in itself. It is worth the read and a great way to spend a rainy day or lonely spooky night!
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Dead Sea by Brian Keene (Mass Market Paperback - July 1, 2007)
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