44 of 59 people found the following review helpful
An epic scope undermined by a lack of details, imagination or skill
, March 25, 2008
This review is from: Plague of the Dead (The Morningstar Strain) (Paperback)
To me, Z.A. Recht's Plague of the Dead has the distinction of being the most ambitious, epic and inventive of Permuted Press's somewhat lethargic and pedestrian line, however extremely poor characterization, a pervasive disregard for fact checking or character and world details and a rushed, surprisingly timid style completely buries any creative surprises that might be found within.
I won't deny Mr. Recht his props. In some ways, he really deserves them. Most of all because I think he might have done what many considered to be impossible, he came up with a new way to present the zombie plague and he did it by simply combining the age old with the new in a way that works really surprisingly well. Its so inventive and fun in fact, that I wouldn't be surprised to see the idea of sprinting, rage filled and infected living that when killed then rise again as the shambling, shuffling dead start to catch on and appear in the more "main stream" zombie stuff. It was a creative bend on existing ideas and it worked. Kudos, Mr. Recht, well done. He also has not only obviously put together some thoughts and a little bit of research on his plague, its biology and its origin, but also on his greater story itself, as this is just the first part of a proposed trilogy. I can respect the effort evidenced, at the very least, if not the execution.
Because, quite frankly, this is where Plague of the Dead stumbles, falters and then fails. The characters are so one dimensional that calling them paper thin would be a compliment. Their motives and speech patterns are completely and totally interchangeable. If you had a page of dialogue without qualifiers, you wouldn't be able to even guess gender, let alone the character identity. At their core all the characters can all be boiled down to simple, one word descriptions: General. Girl. Scientist. Loner. Black guy (admittedly that's two words... sue me.) but even then they get confusing: Soldier, soldier, soldier, young soldier? To top it all off, half the names are so similar that at a glance, many could be mistaken for each other.
And speaking of "at a glance", the worst mistake of the book is so huge, that it simply can NOT be ignored. CAN NOT! Now, lets ignore the fact that he obviously did not even look at a picture of the Suez Canal, lets ignore the fact that he obviously has no idea as to the Suez Canal's purpose, lets ignore the fact that there is no way in the world that if a dangerous plague was threatening to jump from Africa, from Egypt and over the canal, that the entire opposite bank wouldn't be lined with the entire Israeli armed forces, not to mention a huge chunk of America's, lets EVEN ignore the somewhat silly idea that we would even TRY to quarantine Africa, alright? Barring all those little flubs, which, come on now, when listed together suddenly don't seem so little (and this is by no means an even close to complete list of all the inaccuracies, mistakes and things that don't make sense) barring all those things, there is one mistake that towers over everything, that destroys, DESTROYS, any credibility the author or his book might have had, a mistake so god awful dumb that... I can't even quantify it, man...
You'll read some reviews that will refer to it as a "simple" geography mistake, but let me assure you, it is not. Look... Africa is to the WEST of the Suez Canal, THE WEST! You don't even need a detailed map in order to see this. A child's globe, even an inflatable globe beach ball where you'd find a big yellow blob labeled simply as: Africa, would tell you this at a glance! AT A GLANCE! Africa = west of the Suez! Africa only connects to Asia at one point! ONE POINT! COME ON, MAN! Who was the editor on this book? They should be fired, just fired out right. A typo, a mistake... that's one thing, but for an entire chapter he gets this wrong and that only makes it obvious that the Editor DID NOT do his/her job. Doesn't this upset Permuted Press? Is this what they want to present to the world? How very, very professional.
So what else? Really, at this point, after that, is it worth going into all the little aggravating mistakes, technical inaccuracies and poorly conceived and choreographed moments? I could go into the fact that a hundred or two more pages or so were needed and that the story was crippled by be confined to so few. I can go on about the lack of character development and the hesitancy displayed when faced with an emotional character moment but not when it came to gore, but what's the point? I mean, if you can get it wrong that Africa is to the west of the Suez canal, does anything else really need to be said?
Overall, this is a very poorly done book, but it is one that feels like a very early first draft, as Mr. Recht shows an inventiveness and a sense of action and story lay out that could be nurtured into something much better, if only given some time, even if the end result would most likely be somewhat clichéd and surface. And while, yes, the blame for this does lay firmly on Mr. Recht's shoulders, a healthy portion also falls on Permuted Press whose editorial staff did the man a massive disservice with their ludicrously poorly performed job.
This is a cheap, paper thin, clichéd, one dimensional child's adventure, but there is a sparkle of imagination contained within that might someday outshine the myriad of mistakes and mis-steps... maybe.
My recommendation: Anyone with even low-medium standards need not apply.
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