Customer Reviews: Dying to Live
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on April 28, 2011
To be honest, I've known the author for a while now...but it's only recently that I decided to pick up one of his books. Knowing his background, and the fact that I've heard the religious aspects of his books extolled by others...I was reluctant to jump in, afraid that I'd be reading something akin to a zombie version of the "Left Behind" series. And furthermore, as a religious person myself (though not a Christian), like most people, when reading a book, I generally prefer that all references to religion be 100% in line with my own beliefs. ;) Admit it: You feel the same way. Atheist, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, etc...we as a species generally prefer affirmation, rather than learning too much about those outside of our weltanschauung.

But let me assure you: This is a very cool book. A lot of religious-oriented literature has the effect of being "preached to." You can tell that there is an agenda, and it can often be quite "pushy." ...But this isn't that kind of book. In fact, it's a very thoughtful philosophical take on the zombie apocalypse genre...but it NEVER sacrifices action or gore. In fact, there were a few scenes that literally made me sick to my stomach...and I write horror stories for a living! Furthermore, I read the last third of the book in one sitting, because the action was just so intense that I had to see where it led.

So if you, like me, have been avoiding reading this book because of the Christian overtones...let me remind you that THE EXORCIST is a movie based on Christian mythology. Yeah, you didn't feel like you were being "preached to" while watching Linda Blair's head do a 360, did you?
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on November 3, 2011
Once again raving amazon reviews have bamboozled me. What's worse is that of all the reviews I read about Dying to live no one warned me about being proselytized to. In the first place the story and character set up was pretty weak, but I could have dealt with that. For a zombie narrative this book would have been satisfactory if not for the constant references to Christian beliefs i.e. characters praying, things or people being compared to stories from the bible, nonstop thoughts about the bible and god. The beginning of the book mention of god etc. was sparse and almost forgivable, but as the story progressed the god talk got worse and worse up until the end where I felt like I might as well have gotten this book straight from a Christian book store. And come to find out that Kim Paffenroth spent two recent summers studying at Calvin College as a part of some Seminars in Christian Scholarship. That and one of the books he mentioned in this books acknowledgements to have influenced or inspired him to write this book was the bible... need I say more? If I wanted to read about religious things I would have gone to the religious section. This book left me feeling cheap and cheated. Ugh.
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on May 1, 2007
I recently finished Kim Paffenroth's "Dying to Live" and cannot praise it enough. The story kicks off with a bang and doesn't let up. The is truly an awesome story with enough gore to keep any hardcore zombie fan's attention but it is also character driven enough to make it more than you typical zombie blood fest. You truly care what happens to Jonah and the other survivors in this book. Once you start reading this book, you won't want to put it down - I know that's cliche but in this case it is true!!
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on May 6, 2007
Although the plot here is your standard apocalyptic-zombie deal, Paffenroth's characters are very interesting, and his use of symbolism and theology (as in his Stoker-winning non fiction book, GOSPEL OF THE LIVING DEAD) sets this one's dialogue and much of its tone apart from others in the genre.

On the grue side, zombie fans looking for a splatter-fest are in for a treat, and it's nice to see some deep thoughts in-between the carnage.
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on December 25, 2015
This book should be $0.99 or better yet free. I thought that it being marked up at the higher price it would be the new zompoc book that I've been craving. Well, I was horribly wrong. It's nothing but a slow story with an even more boring plot line. The zombies are predictable. There is zero character build up. Run away from this book as fast as you can.
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on March 19, 2013
Great Zombie book. Makes you like the characters and feel their fear and joy. Not for the faint of heart....but if you are, what are you doing reading zombie novels? enjoyed it so much just ordered next 2 books in the series, LIFE SENTENCE AND LAST RITES.
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on May 10, 2007
The book starts quickly, drawing the reader into the dangers a few months after the Dawn of the Dead scenario. Unlike many books in the zombie category, the POV character often stops to reflect on the lost humanity of the zombies. They are the background danger to a generally hopeful plot and make an interesting contrast to some of the much worse living survivors.
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on April 7, 2013
This book gripped me in the beginning. I enjoyed the explanation of how the main character survived on his own, as well as his spiritual and emotional reactions to the reality of a zombie apocalypse. I even enjoyed the description of how the community he joined formed and designed their rules. I didn't buy the romance at all. I didn't have a strong sense of most characters' personalities. I thought many of the action sequences were unrealistic. And I was really turned off by the sudden deranged violence and sadistic characters introduced in the final act of the story. The violence was really stomach-turning. Not to mention the over-the-top crucifixion allegory (nails in the hands? a pierced side? The words "It is finished." Come on!). And I was really upset that the character who was most victimized in the prison didn't even get a MENTION in the epilogue.
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on February 27, 2014
I enjoyed all three books and I believe that this was the best of the series. It took the zombie storyline and in a way turned it on its head and took the series from a survival zombie narrative to more of an intellectual look at who can really be the "monsters".
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on August 29, 2007
There are parts of this book that are great - some flat out fantastic zombie fiction. Original, and yet mostly true to the Romero template (though that's not something I live and die by, as it were). I can see why this has earned his book the compliment of being 'the thinking man's zombie novel' - but I think that description is somewhat misleading.
The plot and geography of his world are very nicely done - and the nods and respect for what is horrific about the genre are intact. That aspect is intelligent and fun writing.
There is a lot lacking, however. The dialog is pretty bad, with exposition coming about in unnatural ways. There are some awkward treatments of gender, and race, that read like they are coming from someone a few generations older than the pop culture norm. The narrator and male characters have a kind of 'tin masculinity' - cliches abound. The women are treated nearly as a different species, rather than gender.
Especially odd is the way the narrator lingers on many emotionally difficult things, yet - he doesn't think about his wife and kids at all after trying, unsuccessfully, to find them (not really a spoiler - its covered in exposition). He writes of sexuality as if he is Mr. Rogers. In a prison environment, he refers several times to 'the black man'(previously met)- it would be more apt to point out 'the white man', who is more likely a minority in this setting. Better yet - I'd rather have characters described as something other than their race. In a zombie infested convenience store he comments about how the races are all finally getting along now that they are undead... last time I was in a convenience store many races were represented and they were getting along fine. There is some ugly judgement and generalization of inmates in prison - all lazy stupid sodomites.
All of this can be forgiven for a fast paced romp through a zombie apocalypse.
Harder to avoid, however, is the ever present discussion of God, the Bible, spirits, and souls. Luck and 'all these little miracles' are written of in a way that tauntingly suggests that anyone who doesn't think God is pulling the strings is crazy. The word or name God is on nearly every page - especially in dialog - many characters like to chat about God. An unlikely character points out the difference between the Tribulation and the Apocalypse (having overheard it from elderly relatives!?). The Bible is quoted several times, sometimes in casual conversation. People don't talk like that, in my experience, except perhaps in church lobbies or study groups. For the most part - people avoid discussion of religion and politics in polite company of casual acquaintances.
This would all seem more plausible, and less hard to accept and digest, if the narrating character was a professor of religious studies (like the author of the book) rather than an english professor. That would have been a good solution, I think.
Aside from dialog - there are several biblical references in the action of the story. A man first looses his ear in a scuffle - then has both hands pierced with knives and is finally killed with a spear in his side while his friends talk about how forsaken he was, and how 'like a lamb to the slaughter' (this read as crass and tasteless, not merely out of place and unlikely). There is an outright messiah character who didn't bother me half as much as the frequent references to God and impromptu religious discussions (and untimely internal reflection of the narrator) throughout the rest of book.
How reviewers fail to mention this religious undertone is beyond me. I found it very distracting at times - and feel it detracted from an otherwise fantastic read.
The highs were strongly tempered by the lows - I would have gone to 5 if it hadn't had a subversive religious tone.
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