Top critical review
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OK, good material, but not used to its full potential
on July 8, 2007
One of Recht novel's biggest merits is to bring the light back onto this old -though fascinating- Zombie theme. Looks like it is the latest trend in horror books, given the number of new publications on the subject as of late...
Anyway, I have enjoyed the "international" coverage of the theme: for once, the action is not strictly limited to the US and not solely focused on US internal affairs -as opposed to global ones. Recht's novel covers the whole world, and the author seems to have been willing to involve a fair panel of foreigners as part of the group of heroes, with characters of such diverse backgrounds as Japanese, Arabic, Black African. Good and realistic stuff, as a viral epidemics of the nature of what Recht identifies would in no way be contained to a single nation in the world.
Beyond these comments, I have been a little taken aback by a number of flaws in the novel architecture and hypothesis used in it. For one, there is no clear definition of the number of soldiers that participate to the Suez conflict. One would only hypothesize that such a threat would be dealt with dozens, if not hundreds of thousands of soldiers, from various countries and not only from the US, not by a limited-scale force as featured in Recht's book.
Also, there is a lack of overall cohesion in how the US military behaves: after the Suez debacle, it looks as if the General is simply cut loose from his own commanders. He does not try hard -as he would be supposed to do in real life- to reestablish the connection with his "back-office" supervisors to get their instructions on how to further conduct the war against the enemy. It is as if the head of the US army, back on the East Coast, had completely vanished. With the Suez front being of such a key importance to the overall conflict, how come the US President does not manage to establish and maintain contact with Sherman through either his remaining brass staff, or DIRECTLY in the worse case? The repetition of major flaws in the army's chain of commands' functioning put me slightly off and, from then on, I could no longer read without looking at the overall cohesion of the book. Also, what about the use of non-conventional WMD by the US and their allies, especially out there in the desert? That's probably one of the first things mankind would be doing in such a real-life situation, the risk of collateral damage being of such a limited nature and scope... Plus, look at this righteous target: a bunch of dumb-minded carriers, amassed in a crowd, moving in almost a straight line along a clearly outlined road! Just reroute a few Guam-based B1B's, B2's or even B52's, located a mere few hours flight time away from this theater of operations, have them drop their 40 tons of ordnance right on the target, and the threat would have been quickly and cost-efficiently taken care of...
I believe that, as the book is most certainly going to be followed by a sequel, the entire work of Recht should be monitored and assessed once all his books on this saga are made available.
Now, as it is always easier to criticize than to do the job, I have to stress a few more merits of the book, which in my mind reflects a finely balanced view of the human society overall:
- The idea of runners Vs shamblers zombies is top notch. It is a good means for merging the two concepts of traditional zombie movies/books: some feature slow-moving zombies (Romero's saga), others sport fast runners (28 days after). The expanation between the two is also good.
- It is simultaneously critical of the military, and still shows some respect to the soldiers.
- It does not get dragged into stereotypical situations and behavior descriptions: women act credibly and in their usual subtle ways (they are not just described as men wearing skirts!!), soldiers are not born-heroes.
- The General is not superhuman: he, too, makes long reaching mistakes in his decision-making process.
This is just like real life is supposed to be: not black-and-white, but a constant mix of grays.