Top critical review
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First half was ok, second half was poorly written and conceived...
on November 1, 2009
I've been interested in the zombie genre for awhile, and was looking for something thoughtful and well written as my second choice to read in the genre ("World War Z" being the first, and quite good).
I read the various comments about this novel being more philosophical, and showing more of the nature of humanity, as juxtaposed with zombies.
Right from the beginning, it felt obvious that the writer wasn't going to create any truly deep philosophical arguments, as most of the 'good vs evil' in how people behaved in the aftermath of the outbreak was very superficial. Perhaps the most interesting element in this regard was the main character's treatment of those zombies that he killed, when he was able to. I couldn't help but feel that this element was sadly under-explored, primarily due to it occurring in a large city where the chance of running across a friend/coworker/etc who'd been 'turned' was pretty minimal.
There was also an apparent attempt to bring religion into it which felt half baked and rushed at the end (more on this below).
Also near the end was the obligatory "Humanity is capable of far more evil than the zombies are..." Well, yeah... zombies are mindless.. there's no evil intent behind their actions. This 'commentary on humanity' was hardly thought provoking, merely obvious.
Ok, so the philosophical elements that seem to be the draw behind the book were lacking, as far as I was concerned. What about the overall story and writing?
The first half was actually average to good. It started very along the lines of "I Am Legend", until the main character found a community that had managed to eke out an existence. Generally this section was decently, if not spectacularly, written, and the gore and interesting back stories that would be expected in such a novel didn't disappoint. There was one interesting character that seemed to provide a potential way to 'defeat' the zombies, but the community seemed to completely ignore the obvious things that might be done to explore this a bit more fully (I'll refrain from describing my thoughts here to avoid spoiling the character).
Where the story fell apart and almost earned a 1 star rating from me, was the second half where the main characters discover another group of survivors. Here's where the 'humanity can be more evil than zombies' element comes into play. Yup, really bad things are perpetrated on the characters by other humans. Compared to the rest of the novel, this section is poorly edited (misspelled words and badly written sentences). Worse are a couple of almost laughable moments of 'philosophy'. One example is when a character is about to bash in the head of the most evil character in the book.. in between rearing back to swing and when he actually does, there's a paragraph or two about how he tries to decide how he feels about doing so, and once he realizes how he feels, how he feels about how he feels. There are also some giant holes in logic in this section that are poorly and hastily explained after the fact.
Now.. from a zombie novel, I don't expect the same level of writing as I do from the better fantasy I read, but this novel delivered less than expected, especially when compared to such novels as "World War Z".