I enjoy reading all types of horror stories, but I have always had a special place in my heart for apocalyptic tales. I don't know what it is about these sorts of yarns, but give me a disastrous end of the world scenario along with a band of disparate and desperate survivors attempting to eke out an existence in a devastated world and I am there. I've probably read Stephen King's "The Stand" at least four times, along with "On the Beach," "Earth Abides," "Swan Song," and many, many more stories concerning the end of humanity. The method of destruction doesn't make much of a difference in whether I will read the story, either. Give me nuclear bombs raining down from the heavens, killer viruses or related plagues, or out of control technology, and I'm happy. Brian Keene took a slightly different tack with his horror novel "The Rising." Instead of vaporizing cities with megaton yield weapons or employing a killer flu, he decided good old-fashioned zombies would do the trick. Yep, the world as we know it doesn't go out with a bang in Keene's book; it goes out with chomp, a chew, and a swallow. "The Rising" is light years ahead of the other apocalyptic zombie book I read a couple of years ago, Candace Caponegro's "The Breeze Horror."
We learn quickly that the world went insane when some scientists working in one of those secret weapons laboratories experimented with a new particle accelerator. Whoops. The experiment had all sorts of important functions, at least on paper, but warnings that strange incidents could take place went largely ignored by the technicians involved in the project. When reports began surfacing about the recently dead suddenly reanimating and wreaking havoc, people wrote it off as nonsense. Predicatably, the problem soon proved horribly true, resulting in escalating and ever widening scenes of violent death at the hands of the hungry undead. Society went under with astonishing speed as the flesheaters promptly attacked any living creature within reach, thereby exponentially increasing their own numbers while achieving a comparative decrease in human numbers. Electric power, cell phones, the Internet, the government, and radio and television stations began to fail in various parts of the country as the zombies rampaged. This further isolated survivors, although a few stalwart souls doggedly hang on in the face of total insanity.
One of these survivors is Jim Thurmond, a construction worker living in West Virginia. Hiding away in a bomb shelter he constructed in case the world ended from Y2K, Thurmond now uses it to hold off packs of roving beasties, one of them his recently deceased second wife. Jim laments his condition, sick to the very marrow of his being that he will never again see Danny, his son from his first marriage. Thurmond's son lives in far off New Jersey, a long trip under normal circumstances but now seemingly unreachable considering current affairs. Then something amazing happens that sends Jim off on a quest fraught with peril: his nearly dead cell phone rings with a message from his son. Danny whispers into the phone that things are bad where he is at but that he and his mother are currently hiding from the zombies. Thurmond resolves to leave that very minute in order to rescue his son. Just getting out of the bomb shelter presents a host of gruesome problems, problems requiring Jim to commit violence against his former neighbors and even his reanimated wife. Thurmond learns a few other things too, namely that the zombies he encounters do not resemble the shambling creatures from horror movies. The undead in this world possess the ability to think, drive cars, use weapons, and set traps for the living. New Jersey looks further and further away with every passing second.
Other poor souls wander through the deteriorating cities and countryside of the United States. Thurmond meets Martin, an elderly black minister, soon after he leaves his house. The two join forces to find Danny and soon run into plenty of life threatening situations, everything from packs of roving zombies to backwoods cannibals seeking some extra food to undead wildlife. At the same time, Frankie, a down on her luck heroin user and woman of the night who narrowly escapes disaster in the Baltimore Zoo also begins a trek out of the cities and into the country. We also keep tabs on one of the scientists in charge of the particle accelerator as he too seeks his destiny in a world full of the undead. You know all of these people will come together at some point in the novel; seeing how Keene pulls it off is the fun part. The conclusion to the story delivers plenty of gory violence, but also gives us an ending that raises more questions than answers. Keene's story is one of the few mass-market horror paperbacks I have read in the past few years that makes you think after you finish the book.
Several scenes of contrived coincidences, a bit of annoyance concerning Thurmond's robot-like determination to save his son, and a few characters who could have benefited from some better development isn't enough to hurt this book in the least. There is plenty of heavy gore, mach speed pacing, and an imaginative plot that doesn't give you all the answers. Even better, Keene used his apocalyptic tale as a vehicle by juxtaposing unconditional love and hope with death and destruction. "The Rising" is a good tale well told, although if the author plans a sequel perhaps he should reconsider. The conclusion is more powerful left just as it is, something a follow up novel would ruin.
on April 10, 2007
George Romero introduced the world to the hunger of the living dead Night of the Living Dead (Colorized / Black and White). His initial three films are tentpoles in the realm of horror and remained untouchable even to this day. If you wrote about zombies then you looked to Romero's vision for guidance and inspiration. It wasn't until films such as "The Evil Dead" The Evil Dead/Evil Dead 2 - Book Of The Dead Collection and "Re-animator" Re-Animator that the zombie began to evolve. Instead of the slow ambling gait the public had known and trusted, we are introduced to zombies who could run. If the idea of being eaten alive wasn't bad enough, now we were being chased and no amount of cardio was going to help us (Zombies are dead so its not like they are going to get winded). This little change improved the zombie's status in the pantheon of monsters. I figured this was as far as the zombie genre could be taken. What other changes could be made to make zombies worse?
Then I read "The Rising".
If you are a fan of horror fiction then Brian Keene's "The Rising" is NOT unknown to you. This book is one of the most original ventures into the zombie genre you can find and I guarantee it will be emulated in the years to come. Brian Keene's zombies still hunger for the living and have the capacity to move fast after you but the worse aspect is that they think. These zombies operate vehicles, use weapons, and work together. They actually plot courses of action. How screwed is the human race?
If this wasn't bad enough, re-animation of the dead is not exclusive to the human animal. Prepare for flocks of undead birds and other forms of wildlife. Still don't think there's enough danger? Another threat in the book, probably the worst, doesn't come from the dead but from the living. There were points in the book where I was actually rooting for the zombies because the human characters were so evil.
Every great horror writer has a book that puts them on the map and "The Rising" is Brian Keene's announcement of his arrival. There are already a lot of people calling him "the next Stephen King" but I think Brian Keene stands on his own. He takes no prisoners in his style of writing and isn't afraid to take risks. If you want a "safe" read that rehashes the same old genre standards then go somewhere else. I think there will come a day when we will be calling a new horror author "the next Brian Keene". Jump on board now while the journey is just getting started. I have a feeling you won't be disappointed.
(On a side note, pick up Brian Keene's "City of the Dead"City Of The Dead which is a direct sequel to "The Rising". There are a lot of people who hated "The Rising" because of the end. The sequel begins immediately after.)
on November 10, 2005
I've been a zombie fan since the day I rented a tape of the original DAWN OF THE DEAD back in the 1980's. But the main reason I picked up the THE RISING was because it is an award-winner. The fact that it was within the zombie apocalypse genre just whetted my appetite. I had just finished reading PALADIN OF SOULS by Lois Bujold. And if you think of that as eating a piece of angel food cake, THE RISING would be like eating a slab of ribeye steak, very rare.
THE RISING is shockingly violent. The horrors that man exacts on man following the breakdown of civilization is somehow worse than the horrors perpetrated by the demon-infested zombie hoard. I normally recommend good books to my wife after I read them. This book, though entertaining, describes events so vile and disturbing that I simply could not recommend it to anyone other than the most hardened of horror fans.
Brian Keene has writing talent, there is no mistake about that. His style gets to the point without a lot of needless chatter. William Strunk would have been proud. His descriptions are concrete and clear. He passes Ayn Rand's test for keeping abstract ideas to a minimum. I liked the touch of adding a character who reads Nitzsche in the midst of an apocalypse. Very clever.
There were some things I would have done differently had I had the talent and skill to write this kind of novel. First, I wouldn't have given away so much so early. The reason for the zombie invasion is explained too early and in too much detail. What I remember most of the time I first saw DAWN OF THE DEAD was puzzling over why it was happening. I would piece through clues from the lines of characters in the movie as well as NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, theorizing in my mind over what had really happened. (A comet passing by. A bio-weapon. "When there is no more room in hell, the dead will walk the Earth.")
Second, I would have added some more complexity to a few of the characters. Once you get to know the main characters, you can basically predict what they will do in any given situation. I would have liked to have seen a little more depth to the characters. Jim's constant repetition over finding his son began to grate at me because I would know he was about to say it before he did. The idea of leaving Schow in the background for a long time, described only by his actions as told by other characters, was a nice touch, however. Reminds me of Bram Stoker leaving Dracula in the background for much of that novel. Most of the soldiers were caricatures of real military people. I had a hard time believing some of these characters.
The unresolved ending was very irritating until I found that I could resolve it by reading the book jacket of the sequel CITY OF THE DEAD.
Overall, I would have to say I enjoyed the novel, and the real test...did it give me nightmares? Well, yes, I did have a nightmare about zombies the night after I finished it. So you could say it haunted me...mission accomplished.
on February 18, 2006
i will admit ahead of time that i am an old-fashioned zombie fan - i like them rigor-ed, slow, and mindless. That being said, i will also say that i love it when they are fast as well, viscious but still mindless. When you add the element of consciousness, like in Romero's "Land of the Dead" or in this novel you forsake all that makes a zombie story so compelling an frightening. When they can think and communicate they cease to have the same sort of sub-conscious-rattling fear to them, they no longer shake something deeper in your mind than any idiot with a gun, a baseball bat or a fist.
Keene seems to trip over himself all over the place, inserting good enough moments of violence and descriptions of gore - but flat violence and gore do not a zombie story make. Isolation, the unknown and the unrelenting nature of the enemy are needed. Here he paints the zombies as the souls of demons inhabitting the bodies of the dead - "the dead" can be animal, or human (insect?) - and the demons have access to all of the memories and abilities of the host corpse. This means they can drive, use tools, use fire arms and communicate.
the problem is this: they are described as intelligent, cunning, ancient and in the act of hunting humansand yet are consistantly seen acting like a standard zombie. Which is it? When the novel opens with Jim holed up in the bunker beneath his home, looking above ground through a periscope at the numerous zombies milling about in his yard i can only wonder at the fact that the zombie that was his wife can't remember how to get in the bunker through the home's basement. It was her house right? And it's plainly stated that she helped bank-roll the bunker...
With zombie's like this,any of the main characters in this novel would be dead. They'd never make it a mile out of hiding, and even in hiding, a cunning and intelligent hunter would find them or at the very least a zombie rat or two.
And any novel with a scene involving zombie rabbits and or squirrels seriously chasing down a protagonist.... that's comedy, not horror.
on October 22, 2014
This zombie novel is slightly different than others in that it postulates some sort of alien/demonic/Lovecraftian origin for the zombies, but after bringing it up it's pretty much dropped and there is no further explanation in terms of WTF is going on. The zombies hate us because we have souls or whatever. The origins are left fuzzy and I suppose might be explained in the novels that continue the series, but I think a book should stand on its own. Especially since I won't be reading further in this series.
Nevertheless this is a serviceably well-written book in which what you expect to happen pretty much happens. There is a contrived need for the main character to travel a long distance, and on the way there are zombies. Also, people are worse than zombies (which shouldn't surprise anyone). I could have done without the elaborate descriptions of the various rapes perpetrated on the main female character.
If you want to read the best zombie book out there, though, read World War Z. I have been searching for something to equal it for years now, and haven't found it yet.
on December 3, 2015
Keene's zombie fiction starts out very strongly and it definitely drew me in. He is indeed a creative author, he explores the classic zombie apocalypse scenario with a unique depth that I have not seen elsewhere. Unfortunately, the plot is pretty much focused on a father trying to reach his son, with little emphasis on anyone who isn't directly involved in this quest. I had a hard time identifying with his characters, most of whom are very simply-drawn for the reader. There are not many dilemmas for them, just outcomes. The zombies, in my opinion, are the best (if not the most sentient) beings of the story.
Specifics on real-world weaponry
Excessive detail/emphasis on rape and drug addictions
One-sided characters (The heroin addict is the most developed character. Neither the pastor nor father-figure have much going for them, they're boring)
The author "tells instead of shows" in his writing
on October 19, 2014
The Rising by Brian Keene
HA Buddy Read for October
The Rising is a book selected for a buddy read that I joined over on HA. I was told this was the start of the zombie genre and that it couldn't get any better than this. So I joined in expecting a good read and a fun time discussing this book.
I thought the book had too much of an introduction before the actually story started. Then I realized part of the story, I believe, Mr. Keene was telling was the story of the characters. All of these seperate stories were interesting. Of course one knows that eventually all these characters will meet and either save the day, become part of the problem or die trying.
In this zombie book all living creatures that can move are susceptible to becoming a zombie. Becoming a zombie is not really a virus in this book as it is in I believe all the other zombie books I have read. I'm not a big fan of our domestic pets and wild life becoming zombies...it is a personal preference and not a reflection on this story or the author.
The characters are well written and their development showed superior writing.. I could see what Frankie looked like from her first introduction until the end of the book. Wonderful character development. One character had a lot of solid believes and was a great support to his friend. That friendship was nice and helped the less developed character reach many of his character goals.
Over all I liked the book OK. My main purpose in reading it was to discuss it and I hope that soon our group can begin discussing the stories different aspects. Because the characters are so well written, planning a character discussion would be a good idea.
I give this book 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4
Recommended with caution (not just human zombies)
Writing about zombies is a hit-or-miss proposition. Lacking the personality and charisma of, say, a vampire or werewolf, zombie characters can become unintentionally silly or just devolve into excessive gore. Zombie fiction is often repetitive and redundant, treading over well-worn paths about mindless and shambling creatires who exist solely to eat brains.
Not so for Brian Keene, whose first novel, "The Rising," is a nonstop, tension-filled ride through an America overrun by the slavering dead. In Keene's world, zombies are not mindless shamblers; they are demons who inhabit the empty bodies of the newly deceased. The scientific explanation is that a nuclear accelerator being tested in a military research facility weakened the walls between dimensions, allowing the demons to flood our world. The theological explanation is that the Siqquism, a race of demons banished to a cold and timeless void long before the fall of Lucifer, are using the new portal to inhabit bodies.
Whichever explanation you prefer, the simple truth is that these zombies rise moments after a person or animal dies. They don't shamble and moan like most zombies we've read about; they plot and hunt and think, and when they catch and feed on living humans, they leave enough of the corpse intact so that another of their kind can move in and join the growing army. That's bad news for the survivors.
"The Rising" is a tense horror novel that doesn't shy away from gore but also offers reasonable amounts of character development, motivation and -- ack! -- one hell of a cliffhanger ending.
by Tom Knapp, Rambles.(n e t) editor
on September 10, 2008
For anyone who hasn't read this book and is not insane, I stopped reading before the TENTH PAGE and am here to save you even that much trouble. Here's what you have to look forward to in the first nine pages, encapsulated with snarky commentary:
PAGE 5 (first page):
--Protagonist trapped in shelter with (identifiable, talking) zombie relatives and neighbors outside trying to get in and eat him. I Am Legend comes to mind (the book, not Wil Smith).
--He drains his wife's savings [he's a penniless bum, see below] to build a bunker/shelter for Y2K and she doesn't believe they need it. A wacky savings-draining project would never happen in any house where the wife has her own money, ever.
--The bunker is 10x15 and "holds four people comfortably." It also contains the following: three _pallets_ of bottled water, a 55 gallon drum, a generator, a toilet, a shelf of books, a desktop PC, a portable stereo and music collection, canned goods, dry goods, toilet paper (takes up a lot of space), medical supplies, guns, and "lots of ammunition". Completely unrealistic that it even holds ONE person comfortably. Four would kill each other within 48 hours.
--The world died because when the zombies broke out, nobody cared...because after September 11, 2001 people had learned that disaster warnings were meaningless. [No, I'm not making that up.]
--In the far flung distant future of 2005, mankind has perfected cloning, sent a human mission to the moon (current estimate is 2037. It certainly didn't happen 3 years ago), "defeats terrorism" and are about to cure cancer.
--His first wife and his son had been "the core of his world" (lame phrasing)...until she ran off with a guy from work and still got custody of the kid(?)
--"One night stands that blurred together;" "beer and bimbos" every other weekend...in Lewisburg, West Virginia, population 3500 and full of old people (median age 46).
--The only times Jim was "truly happy" were with his son. [see below]
--His ex-wife and son move to New Jersey with her new husband. But he doesn't try to relocate, too...even though he loves his son sooo much. [see below again]
--("More women and one night stands"--in Lewisburg)
--He loses his job and his home. He is now completely free to go to New Jersey to live in an alley near his son, who is his whole world and reason for existing, but he doesn't.
--He met his new wife through "Mike and Melissa." He says that like we (the readers) already know them. No reference given. No explanation for how they know each other. Also, do married couples commonly hang out with homeless drunks? [see below]
--He lost his drivers licence, apartment, job, and--of course--"his self-respect". The only thing he had was an alcohol addiction. So, with all of this, "Mike and Melissa" decide to set up their lonely divorcee friend Carrie with him. On their first blind date with this hobo, she immediately fell in love (I guess) and "she saved him" (of course).
--8 months ago Carrie found out she was pregnant (and still no baby). How did she find out so quickly?
--Jim "loved her so much it hurt--" as if this tired metaphor wasn't bad enough he goes on to explain "--an actual, physical hurt deep inside his chest.
--"Shuddering, Jim recalled..." Has anyone ever really shuddered? Has anyone ever shuddered _in recollection_?
--"The dead were coming back to life, not as mindless eating machines as in old horror movies..." Here's where you know this book is going to go wrong. "Here's my twist on the zombie tale: all the things that make zombies compelling...I'm not using."
--His wife gets sick and dies because they had "run out of pre-natal vitamins." Seriously? What did humans do before pharmaceutical companies made our lives all better?
--He suddenly says "as her condition worsened" without previously introducing her illness...or condition.
--Next paragraph is predictably sappy, then says "THE pneumonia had finally killed her." Huh? What pneumonia? A "THE" right there indicates the one you had already told us about. But you didn't. And never mention it again, I might add.
--How do you get pneumonia in a tiny room with a 55 gallon kerosene heater? [see also p. 12]
--She was 9 months pregnant...did the baby have pneumonia, too? Oops. The son-loving protagonist doesn't even mention that he lost a wife AND unborn child. Really dedicated family man, there.
--Protagonist doesn't properly dispose of his dead wife even though he knows he should...because he loves her (corpse) so much. I Am Legend again.
--He buried her under the "pine tree they had planted that summer...and held hands beneath that tree only months before." 1) Gag. 2) That tree grew awfully fast. 3) The zombies just stood there and let you dig a 6' pit?
--(He uses the word "blasphemous" awkwardly here.)
--The phones go out as well as the internet. But "his cellular was a powerful unit, able to transmit and receive beyond the concrete [underground] bunker." No way this works. No. Way. I guess that's alright, giving us this random piece of information not connected to anything whatsoever. Sure, it's unbelievable, but it's not like it's gonna ring. Obviously.
--"In the rush [he never tells us about the rush] to get to the bunker he had forgotten the charger." But he remembered to grab months (days? weeks?) worth of backup cell phone batteries? Why not just get it when the zombies were letting you stand around the back yard and dig all day?
--Also, I don't really know what "sleep mode" is for a phone. Either it's receiving, or it's off.
PAGE 12 (almost done)
--Jim goes to open the refrigerator and drink the last beer, then throw the can into the corner. Now we find out that in addition to the list above, there is also a full-size refrigerator (it's big enough to make him cold) in there and enough beer to last a former alcoholic for months, as well as a corner full of beer cans? Where does this guy sleep? Where do the four people sleep comfortably.
--NOTE: Jim is not killing himself because he lost his family days (weeks? months?) ago...he's killing himself because the beer ran out.
--He "shivered in the air pouring from the open refrigerator." There are so many things wrong with this. Before, it says he's freezing and uses the heat sparingly. If he's already freezing, how bad can the refrigerator really be? Also...the heat displacement from the fridge would heat a 10x15 space quite handily. By the way, I assume he vents his generator outside somehow. Not so good in an enclosed space. The generator would also generate heat. In fact, that little room is probably uncomfortably warm.
--He starts to kill himself. **SPOILER** He doesn't. The book keeps going. Whew! I was afraid the next 300 pages might be blank.
--He starts looking at photos and acting all maudlin. Photos which thankfully he remembered to bring with him in his rush to make it to the shelter. Photos he KNEW he would need later to remember his dead wife. "Hey, Jim, what are those pictures for?" "Don't worry about it, honey. I just want to have a picture of the person I'm going be crammed into a tiny box with for the next six months in case I forget what she looks like. Four inches away from me. Sleeping in a pile of toilet paper. Twenty-four hours a day." [In case you haven't noticed the book is full of discrepancies and vagaries in the timeline in just the first 9 pages. =]
--The photo, predictably, is them at the beach and happens to be the day she got pregnant. Not the day she TOLD him...the day she GOT pregnant.
--In this scene, the author actually says, "the woman who had been...so full of life." Like, in a book about zombies. That cliche is so bad that it isn't even used in soaps or romance novels anymore. I don't watch soaps or read romance novels, but I'm pretty sure this is true.
PAGE 13 (the ninth page!)
--Okay, there's no way this could get any more sappy, right?
The other photo is on a perfect summer day, of him and his son--who looks just like him, of course--who is holding up his soapbox derby trophy. (That he won with his new dad in New Jersey. Seriously.) This is so sappy, it's unbelievable that it appears in a horror novel. Even for contrast, or character motivation.
This is where I put down the book in disgust for a whole day. I came back later to skim it and see how bad it could get...so you don't have to!
--A phone conversation between Jim and his son that will literally make you vomit. Literally. Like, on the book. And then you'll have to make up something when you return it to the librarian.
--He cocks the slide on his Ruger and starts to squeeze the trigger (which takes a really long time in tense moments) and...
his cell phone rings! You know, the one with super powers?
--Allow me to interject that for the past 6 pages, he has been telling us that the only times Jim was truly happy is to talk to his son on the phone. Talking On the phone. With his son...
--And when his phone rings, he doesn't answer it. He...doesn't answer it?
--[P.S. Cell phones always have caller ID. Can you guess who it was? I won't tell you, because I don't want to spoil it.]
PAGE 16 (twelfth page of the book, if you've made it this far)
--He picks it up as soon as it stops ringing. Mere seconds later, to check his messages (but doesn't check the caller ID to notice an area code from New Jersey or phone number that he's called every Saturday for the last 5 years).
--When he checks his voice mail, he hears a mechanical whirring sound. What?
--Anyway, 3 seconds after missing the call he checks his voice mail to find a 10-minute long message from his son...
--...that ends, just as the last battery of his cell phone uses the last of its electricity. By now I can only dry heave. I'm guessing his cel phone died because he could have just called him back and that would have ruined the whole book. Or ruined it MORE, I guess.
Some other highlights:
1) They just happen to meet the lone surviving scientist who is responsible for destroying the world. The very "guilt-ridden scientist" from the back cover blurb. *SPOILER* It's not really science, either. Sort of.
2) Worst ending that I've ever read, EVER, and I've read a lot of crap. AND I only read the last 2 pages. [The only worse ending I've ever seen was a PC Game called "The Eye of the Beholder" which booted you to DOS as a reward.]
3) Zombie animals like mice, and zombies telling jokes or one-liners. Zombie beef that eat YOU! Zombie fleas and ticks. (I made that up, but not about the animals. And it appears from other reviews that there are, in fact, deer that eat hunters.)
The basic premise of the story, despite already having been done in hundreds of other books and dozens of movies--a parent fighting to save their child--is alright in its own trite way. Beyond that, it's a complete waste of time. It's about as well-written as your average summer movie.
I like zombies. I like zombie movies. I like zombie books. But I do not like bad prose, bad characters, bad "science", or bad plot.
I'm so glad I checked this book out at the library, I would have been so mad if I'd bought it on Amazon.
If you STILL don't want to believe that the book is bad, the author writes the horribly contrived sequel (City of the Dead), then stops there. Why no trilogy? Because this storyline sucks. The characters and stories bore the guy who created them!
Wait, you say, maybe he just got tired of zombie books. Alas, no, he hasn't retired or stopped writing zombie stories.
In fact, in his next book (Dead Sea), he sets it in a completely different zombie universe than this one...because this one sucks.
I'm not sure if "Leisure" fiction refers to the publisher, the editor, or the author. I'm also not sure who is giving this book 5 stars.
on February 23, 2006
What can i say about The Rising? It started off good, it "cut to the chase" as some would say. We immediatley knew that something was wrong, and it was bad. The book was great. The finish was great. The sequel is great. The style of writting was great. I loved everything about this book and it was a real pageturner. I finished it in 2 days. You won't want to put it down. You definately get your moneysworth with this book. Might be Brian Keene's best write. Alos, be sure to pick up the sequel, City of the Dead.