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4.1 out of 5 stars
Dying to Live: Life Sentence
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on January 30, 2009
Format: Paperback
After the author's impressive debut novel, DYING TO LIVE, I couldn't wait to get my hands on its sequel (but was prevented from getting to it sooner due to my ever expanding TBR pile).

LIFE SENTENCE picks up 12 years after the events of DTL. This time our survivors have cleared and fenced themselves into a large area just outside of a major city. The groups' spiritual leader, Milton, continues to use his supernatural gift to horde the undead into holding bins; the aggressive ones go to one area, the seemingly less aggressive to another. When Milton's protégé, Will, notices two zombies in the latter area behaving almost like "normal" humans, he soon befriends them.

Most of the novel is told from one of the intelligent zombies' viewpoint (we discover his name is Wade Truman, a former college professor who is slowly trying to remember his past life, and whose notes we're now reading). He meets an undead woman named Lucy, and together they spend their days and nights writing, reading, and playing the violin (but trust me . . . this isn't funny or cheesy in the least; Paffenroth truly develops his zombies as much as his human characters).

The second storyline the novel follows is Zoey, a teenage outcast who agrees to take her "vows" to the community. She's as deadly with a gun as she is with her wit, and eventually Will and her situations meet for a finale that's exciting, scary, and best of all, a HUGE cut above your standard zombie fare.

Paffenroth continues to explore zombies from a philosophical angle, this time bringing out the humanity of his two intelligent monsters: neither of them want to eat the living, despite it being a newfound instinct. The self-control displayed by Wade could have been a quick rip-off of "Bub" from Romero's DAY OF THE DEAD, but being this is a novel, we get to see what's going on inside this unique zombies' mind, and its more caring and understanding than most of the human survivors. (Speaking of DAY, there's one group of sleaze balls who try to ruin the party before human and zombie team up to stop them; their leader's name is Rhodes, which I'm sure is in tribute to Romero).

My only gripe is I wanted to see more of the work done by Milton, who was the driving force behind the first novel. Hopefully, if Paffenroth returns with another DYING TO LIVE, he'll go there.

Any horror fan will enjoy LIFE SENTENCE, especially those with a thing for zombies. The author's unique perspective on a post-apocalyptic, undead world puts this--like its predecessor--in its own league.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on January 29, 2009
Format: Paperback
This is a sequel to Paffenroth's 2007 novel DYING TO LIVE. I haven't read that book but had no trouble getting into LIFE SENTENCE, as its subject matter was familiar to me from the films that inspired it. The author has written a book on the cinema of George Romero (2006's GOSPEL OF THE LIVING DEAD) and clearly knows the territory inside and out.
Yet Paffenroth has used his Romero-filched elements in thoughtful and literate fashion. There is the requisite gore, of course, and quite a few nerdy movie references (including a store named Argento and a play on the classic ALIENS line about "real monsters") but the book's true aims are strictly of the philosophical variety.
The setting is a world where the living dead rule and a band of non-zombified people subside in an abandoned museum. The two main characters are Zoey, a pre-teen coming to terms with life in this nightmare world, and Truman, an "evolved" zombie who was once a university professor. In his current state Truman's memories are all-but nonexistent, forcing him to relearn everything; as his curiosity about himself and the world around him grows, Truman finds himself rejecting the anti-social activities of his fellow deaders. Along the way he connects with a fellow zombie named Lucy, and love (of a sort) blossoms.
In the meantime Zoey is maturing into a full-fledged zombie killer, having undergone an intricate initiation ceremony. She and Truman mirror each other in their inquisitiveness about the world around them, and before long Zoey, Truman and Lucy will meet...with unexpected results. The conclusion is (in keeping with the novel's overall tone) thoughtful and contemplative, playing down the expected mayhem in favor of a deeply felt, hard-won humanity.
From a writing standpoint the novel is impeccable. The apocalyptic milieu is convincingly evoked with oft-disturbing realism, and the central characters are strong and three-dimensional. I don't believe (as a back cover blurb states) the book will entirely satisfy gore fans, but it is ideal for readers wanting more from their zombie fiction than flesh ripping and intestine pulling.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on February 12, 2010
Format: Paperback
I received this book as a gift from a friend who didn't realize that this was the continuation of Dying to Live!
It did not affect my immersion into Mr. Paffenroth's world in the least and that is testament to the skill with which he so completely creates his world. His characters are multidimensional, especially his Intelligent Zombies. In fact we fear them all the more since their strong connection to we humans is made all the more apparent by our shared lust for blood. (this becomes evident during a battle late in the book with some marauding, bloodthirsty bandits).
This book has been lauded as a Thinking Man's Zombie book and it is that but it is also much more. Mr. Paffenroth wants us to see the Undead as part of the circle of life, inextricably tied to us and necessary for our evolution. Just as the young Zoey must evolve through the Rites of Passage in order to become accepted in her society, so to must the remaining humans at the end of his book, evolve and rise above their lust for murder or perish. This was an excellent horror book with all the gore and terror elements sure to please any Zombie aficionado! Buy it and enjoy it!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on September 20, 2009
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Dying to Live: Life Sentence

Paffenroth's thought-provoking follow up to Dying To Live: A Novel of Live Among the Undead, summarizes the two-part epic journey that begins with Jonah Caine. In Life Sentence, we meet Zoey, one of a group of children, the first generation of children, to be born to the zombie infested world, daughter of Jack, whom we meet in the first novel. 12 years later after the first novel ends, Zoey's world of survival involves a relatively secure area where the survivors can live with less fear of zombie attacks.

Throughout the novel, Zoey documents much of the survivor's daily trials and tribulations, but gradually, she spends more time documenting Will, who originally appeared in the first novel as Popcorn. Will has discovered that a few of the zombies, whom the survivors no longer kill, but keep in captivity, can communicate with the living, and they also start to recall fleeting memories of their past lives.

Will befriends two of the zombies and begins to spend time with them outside of their prison. But these excursions eventually lead to deadly encounters that changes life, and the future, for Zoey and the other survivors.

Paffenfroth's juxtaposition of living vs. zombie is a series of lamentations, expressed through Truman's, one of the zombies, typewritten notes. He wonders why the living are so scared of the zombies when he witnesses acts of brutality committed by the living against each other. Truman is horrified by the actions he witnesses, and expresses fear of the living.

The last twenty pages of the story are climactic and suddenly, the reader wants more story, more explanation, but Paffenroth states his arguments for humanity's unwillingness, or inability, to look past life-ending calamity and continue with petty barbarism.

Paffenroth creates a sense that the dead are more noble than the living, as the zombies have simple needs never based on rape, murder, destruction, but simpler, seemingly nobler instincts, to feed and move on. There is a sort of acceptance of this new reality when Blue Eye eats one of the raiders who attacks a farm that Zoey is staying at. The sense of justice in that scene is unescapable. Bearing in mind that Paffenroth is a professor of religious studies, there is almost a sense of divine justice, via the zombies, reminding the reader that the living are never far away from joining the zombie horde.

Both books represent a series of biblical allegories, critical of the human state, but deeply introspective. At every turn of the page, a character is always being challenged to make moral decisions with every action carrying a consequence.

Violence, responsiblity and consequence are themes throughout the story. Readers who enjoy hacker/slasher and blood/gore will be disappointed. Paffenroth creates a world that challenges sensibilities and urges the reader to contemplate life and personal action in the context of apocalypse.

Let's hope that Paffenroth has a follow up to Life Sentence: the book is that good!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 17, 2009
Format: Paperback
Dying to Live: Life Sentence
Kim Paffenroth
Permuted Press, October 2008
978-1-934861-11-0
212pp, paperback, $14.95US

Twelve years after the end of the world, the survivors have come to a certain peace within their compound. They found other scattered groups of survivors who had barricaded themselves in various defensible places. These became part of their community. They've claimed some of the houses, the school, and a few other buildings. They've created farms for growing their own food. With no real form of government, they did have few rules and created certain rituals and such to help guide them through their changed lives. They even have created unique ways of dealing with the undead. And above all else, they live their lives with as much 'normalcy' as they know how.

Life Sentence is written as journal entries from two very different points of view which with certain inevitable eventuality collide together. One is Zoey, twelve years old on the threshold of her adulthood; her piece is written as the adult Zoey looking back at that time in her life. The other is one of the zombie 'survivors' who's able to read and write and through the course of the story learns who he was and who falls in love!

Paffenroth's writing is intelligent, poignant, and in more than one instance brought tears to my eyes (but I won't give any spoilers!). The parallels drawn between the survivors and the zombies is chilling and makes one think. A few scenes are a bit graphic but necessary to drive the plot forward; even so, these scenes are well written and well carried. It is a pleasure--and a fright--to see the world after the Dying to Live: A Novel of Life Among the Undead apocalypse, to see it through the eyes of the survivors, to learn how they've molded and adapted to their new world, to witness the horrors they experience in order to endure.

Kim Paffenroth maintains a blog at [...] Permuted Press is on the web at [...]
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
I've never been too keen on zombies remembering their former lives, or gaining intelligence (ex: George A. Romero's Land of the Dead (Unrated Director's Cut)). For that reason alone, I put off reading this seuqel, even though I had already purchased it (I can't have an incomplete set). I had made the mistake of reading the reviews first, and I wasn't thrilled that the zombies had apparently changed from the first book. However, I LOVED Dying to Live: A Novel of Life Among the Undead, and I think Paffenroth is a very talented author...so I finally read Life Sentence.

I was certain that I would be disappointed, but I was pleasantly surprised instead. The novel begins years after the first books ends, with Zoey (the infant rescued in Dying to Live) writing about something that happened when she was twelve years old. One of her first comments reflected on the adults laughing at the irony of finding other survivors in a mall. Her character doesn't understand why, but I appreciated the nod to Dawn of the Dead (Divimax Edition). Also, "Popcorn" has become "Will," which I found interesting; if not for his strong will to live, he wouldn't have survived the movie theater or prison traumas. Of course, Milton continues to round up zombies, and Jack, Sarah, Tanya, Jonah, and even Fran are still active members of the community as well.

Zoey tells us what has happened to the central characters from the first book (but neither book is dependent on the other - both could function as stand-alones). Then the story shifts to Truman's point-of-view...Truman being a zombie who is starting to remember thigns, and uses a type-writer to write his own journal. Truman attempts to explain the changes with some of the zombies. All of it leads up to the discovery of the River Nation.

The complexity of the characters, and their relationships to one another, make this novel quite dramatic, but I would not call this book a horror or thriller novel just because it has zombies. The only thing that may be a problem for some readers is the switch in POV. It goes chapter by chapter, but there is no difference in the type-setting. Some people might not like it, but I found it easy to follow.

I think Paffenroth should write two more installments for Dying to Live: a follow-up on the four who sail away at the end, and another book to tell us about the River Nation's survival story - maybe even their POV about meeting the survivors from the original museum community.

If you haven't already, read Dying to Live: A Novel of Life Among the Undead. If you enjoyed Dying to Live: Life Sentence, you might also like Demons, which is another apocalyptic book with dramatic twists and turns.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 7, 2009
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I am a big fan of Kim Paffenroth's first book, Dying to Live: A Novel of Live among the Undead; however, his follow up book did not quite capture me in the same way. I felt that I was split in that I was deeply enraptured by the subplot surrounding Wade, but I was much less enthused in reading about Zoey. Clearly this is a matter of perspective as the vast majority of readers seem to thoroughly enjoy the whole story.

Zoey's character just didn't capture my interest in the same way as the first novel held you rapt with Jonah and Milton. There was something in her thoughts and feelings that seemed a bit hollow or missing, and that lead me to be less interested in her story, especially in comparison to Wade.

Still, in the story of Wade Truman, the thoughtful zombie, Paffenroth crosses a line that hasn't been broached since Romero with his character "Bub" in Day of the Dead. Paffenroth explores the mind and feelings of the zombie. He pulls the reader in to see them in a different light, and in doing so, he confuses those seemingly clear lines between "good" and "evil". I still wish to read more about the story of Wade and Blue Eye. I feel that the story with them wasn't over, and I'd love to see it continue.

Despite my mixed review, I'd still recommend the book, particularly for individuals already familiar with Paffenroth's take on the zombie apocalypse. He continues to twist the traditional zombie template to hold the reader's attention and stir them to think in a genre that doesn't always command that.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 8, 2009
Format: Paperback
In the next chapter of the Dying to Live novels Kim Paffenroth takes us on an unexpected yet extremely satisfying trip into the world of the few survivors left in a world overrun by the living dead.

This book takes place 12 years after the first one and is narrated by Zoey, the baby who was rescued from the first novel, who has been raised by Jack and Sarah. She is now entering puberty and besides the ever present danger of the zombies she now has to contend with her own feelings towards herself on the people around her.

The book is also narrated by a surprise character, Truman, who is as we quickly learn, one of the living dead. Somehow Truman has an incredible knowledge of the world around him yet remembers nothing from his more "human" days. He is being kept in a make shift holding area by Milton who has continued his quest of herding the zombies into holding areas in an effort not to kill them.

The real strength of this book comes from the interactions that Zoey and Truman have with the other characters as they both embark on their voyages of self discovery that eventually intersect with repercussions that change both of their worlds forever.

I do not want to give away too much as I feel this book is better experienced on one's own. But let me be clear that this IS a must read if you enjoyed the first one or if you simply enjoy the genre.

There is also a rumor that a third one is in the works and may be out next year!!!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on November 4, 2009
Format: Kindle Edition
Having read and loved the first installment of Dying to Live, I have to say that the only reason I'm giving this book four stars instead of five is because I REALLY loved the first book, if only because I tend to be interested more in the initial response to a zombie apocalypse, seeing how people react in the early days (I.e. less gore and zombie mayhem in this book). This book is set some dozen years after the initial outbreak, and from a different character's perspective, and I was immediately sucked into how a community evolves into a new world. Without giving too much away, let's just say that there are some unorthodox ways of dealing with the undead, but not entirely unrealistic, and the real threat still seems to be the survivors, not the zombies. Also, the story focuses on the "evolution" of certain zombies, which normally I would totally hate (being someone who believes that the undead are only here to eat our flesh), but ended up being my favorite part of the story. I can't wait for the third installment, hope there is one! BTW, those of you who are looking for a real solid talent in the zombie genre, keep this author's name in mind, so far he's one of the best I've come across, and believe me there is some real CRAP out there.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on March 1, 2009
Format: Paperback
A lot of zombie books focus on the precipitating event or its immediate aftermath. Paffenroth dealt with that issue in his first Dying to Live book and in this volume deals with what things are like about 12 years later. Paffenroth has thought through how the living might get through that initial crisis to a time when surviving communities have come to some stable structure and have to worry as much about each other as they do the remaining zombies. Paffenroth also takes an interesting look into the mind of a zombie, if that actually makes any sense. He reasons that it might be that case that not all zombies are equally affected by whatever it is that causes their zombieness. He uses this to get us inside a zombie and to see the world from a zombie perspective. I really found this interesting on a lot of levels. How do they deal with the urge to eat? What do they feel? What do they remember? Mix all this with a fair dollop of violence and gore and you have a new and stimulating take on the zombie genre. Both I and my 15 year old son really enjoyed this book!
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