Customer Review

11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Feeling cheated and disappointed..., September 26, 2007
This review is from: The Rising (Mass Market Paperback)
After reading all the five star reviews here on Amazon, I decided to give Mr. Keene's book a try. I love post-apocalyptic tales, zombies and gore, so what the hey. This should have been right up my alley.

Unfortunately, this book was just completely disappointing. It started off strong; the main protagonist sitting in a shelter, being taunted by zombies outside, reminiscent of Richard Matheson's I Am Legend. Jim, our hero, gets a phone call from his boy, and decides to live to save his son. Not the most original of storylines, but fine as a stimulus to get the character going. Unfortunately for the reader, Jim Thurmond does not grow as a character. In fact, like all the characters in this book, he can be easily tagged, classified and filed away under the appropriate stereotyped cliché label. Along the way, Jim hooks up with a minister (of course), who (of course) provides the ever-so-important spiritual voice to the book. Jim (of course) is a non-believer and spouts original arguments like "How could your God allow this to happen?" which is wittily followed up by the Minister's original explanatory "It is His will."

That's not all for the characters. Also moving along in a parallel storyline is Frankie, the requisite hot chick, who also happens to be a junkie hooker who (of course) manages to kick her decade old heroin habit in a couple of days. There's the essential apologetic scientist who helped unleash the apocalypse. There are the men in uniform, who (of course) are sex-hungry crazed sadists with a collective IQ of 22. Heck, there's even the standard issue mentally handicapped boy along for the ride. The only thing missing is the pregnant girl--wait, that would be Jim's dead wife.

What makes things even worse is the complete lack of descriptions or further characterizations for anyone in the story. Everyone sounds the same, and you never learn what anyone or anything looks like (other than gore and the deaths--which Mr. Keene details passably well). The situations the characters find themselves in are contrived and ridiculous. At one point, Jim and the minister are threatened by hillbilly cannibals (humans, not zombies, mind you) in the backwoods of New Jersey. When they finally chance upon the National Guard, they find the armed forces have taken to abducting all women, throwing them in the "Meat Wagon", raping them on a regular basis in between breaks of running outside the military compound to shoot up any male survivors or killing off each other.

But on to the most important aspect--the zombies themselves! THIS should have been the highlight of this book, and the only reason this book gets two stars. I appreciated Mr. Keene's new take on the zombie, as a sort of vanquished demon that has been waiting for eons to leave "the void" and resume life in stolen flesh. The chance came when scientists experimented with a supercollider to attempt the recreation of the big bang. Putting the questionable pseudo-physics aside, these zombies are intelligent, they set traps and plan ambushes, and can inhabit anything that had a large enough soul (from birds to humans to lions oh my!). The only real drawback to being a zombie? They still move slower than humans, being composed of dead, rotting flesh and all. But in short, humanity is royally screwed. If brainless, simple zombies could take over the world by virtue of hunger and massive numbers alone, what chance does humanity have when you substitute those brain dead corpses for highly intelligent ones? Furthermore, I loved the idea that there was nowhere safe to go. The woods were a hotspot for animal zombies, just as the cities would be full of human infected. I would have loved to see Mr. Keene handle this dilemma instead of focusing on contrived characters, weak plotting, and descriptions of explosions and rotting flesh.

This book MIGHT (a big "might") have redeemed itself, had the writing been superb...but it wasn't. It was simplistic, riddled with typos and editing errors, and felt amateur. The ending of the story was a cheap set up for the sequel, and left me infuriated that I had slogged through this terrible book without being granted a resolution or payoff of any kind, no matter how meager.

If you are thinking of buying this book, I would seriously reconsider spending the money on something else. ANYTHING else. Go watch a real zombie movie, like any of Romero's originals. If you feel the need to read about the apocalypse, pick up Cell by Stephen King (which is essentially the same story as this, but light years ahead in writing style and storyline) or The Stand (whose cast of characters was ripped off by this novel).
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 19, 2007 2:22:28 PM PST
i just finished, and everything you said hit the nail on the head. i was about ready to quit reading halfway through, but also decided to tough it out. and then i get to the end...i should've quit while i was ahead. the fast moving, thinking man's zombie was a great plot seed. unfortunately, the plot itself was stillborn. i too was rather irritated at the king ripoffs.
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