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Customer Review

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars OK, good material, but not used to its full potential, July 8, 2007
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This review is from: Plague of the Dead (The Morningstar Strain) (Paperback)
One of Recht novel's biggest merits is to bring the light back onto this old -though fascinating- Zombie theme. Looks like it is the latest trend in horror books, given the number of new publications on the subject as of late...

Anyway, I have enjoyed the "international" coverage of the theme: for once, the action is not strictly limited to the US and not solely focused on US internal affairs -as opposed to global ones. Recht's novel covers the whole world, and the author seems to have been willing to involve a fair panel of foreigners as part of the group of heroes, with characters of such diverse backgrounds as Japanese, Arabic, Black African. Good and realistic stuff, as a viral epidemics of the nature of what Recht identifies would in no way be contained to a single nation in the world.

Beyond these comments, I have been a little taken aback by a number of flaws in the novel architecture and hypothesis used in it. For one, there is no clear definition of the number of soldiers that participate to the Suez conflict. One would only hypothesize that such a threat would be dealt with dozens, if not hundreds of thousands of soldiers, from various countries and not only from the US, not by a limited-scale force as featured in Recht's book.

Also, there is a lack of overall cohesion in how the US military behaves: after the Suez debacle, it looks as if the General is simply cut loose from his own commanders. He does not try hard -as he would be supposed to do in real life- to reestablish the connection with his "back-office" supervisors to get their instructions on how to further conduct the war against the enemy. It is as if the head of the US army, back on the East Coast, had completely vanished. With the Suez front being of such a key importance to the overall conflict, how come the US President does not manage to establish and maintain contact with Sherman through either his remaining brass staff, or DIRECTLY in the worse case? The repetition of major flaws in the army's chain of commands' functioning put me slightly off and, from then on, I could no longer read without looking at the overall cohesion of the book. Also, what about the use of non-conventional WMD by the US and their allies, especially out there in the desert? That's probably one of the first things mankind would be doing in such a real-life situation, the risk of collateral damage being of such a limited nature and scope... Plus, look at this righteous target: a bunch of dumb-minded carriers, amassed in a crowd, moving in almost a straight line along a clearly outlined road! Just reroute a few Guam-based B1B's, B2's or even B52's, located a mere few hours flight time away from this theater of operations, have them drop their 40 tons of ordnance right on the target, and the threat would have been quickly and cost-efficiently taken care of...

I believe that, as the book is most certainly going to be followed by a sequel, the entire work of Recht should be monitored and assessed once all his books on this saga are made available.

Now, as it is always easier to criticize than to do the job, I have to stress a few more merits of the book, which in my mind reflects a finely balanced view of the human society overall:
- The idea of runners Vs shamblers zombies is top notch. It is a good means for merging the two concepts of traditional zombie movies/books: some feature slow-moving zombies (Romero's saga), others sport fast runners (28 days after). The expanation between the two is also good.
- It is simultaneously critical of the military, and still shows some respect to the soldiers.
- It does not get dragged into stereotypical situations and behavior descriptions: women act credibly and in their usual subtle ways (they are not just described as men wearing skirts!!), soldiers are not born-heroes.
- The General is not superhuman: he, too, makes long reaching mistakes in his decision-making process.

This is just like real life is supposed to be: not black-and-white, but a constant mix of grays.
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Showing 1-10 of 15 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Sep 14, 2007 9:33:47 PM PDT
B. Yoshioka says:
That Suez canal conflict always bugged me. I was wondering why they didn't just bomb the zombies. Even if they choose not to use nuclear weapons, they can still carpet bomb the whole area. No need to worry about precision or collateral damage.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 27, 2007 10:23:13 AM PDT
T-Rexx says:
Your remarks are absolutely spot-on! Carpet-bombing the damn whole mess would be so much more cost-and operations-effective than taking the zombies down with foot soldiers! Glad to see we are sharing the same thoughts... Take care.

Posted on Dec 27, 2007 6:46:37 AM PST
I agree with the Suez conflict being weak. My only though was that maybe since everything happened so fast, no one had the time or materials to pull off the defense better. And maybe the other nations would be more concerned with defense of their shores instead...

Posted on Jun 1, 2008 8:53:47 AM PDT
Z. A. Recht says:
Because if all of the zombies were wiped out by carpet bombs there would be no more story. The humans would have won a massive victory and the rest of the story would have been about mopping up.

Sometimes an explanation has to break the fourth wall.

Personally, I explain it to myself as having all materiel othetwise engaged and unable to assist the soldiers at Suez. You can all come up with your own explanations; that's just mine. This is a very contentious scene, by the way. Half the people love it, half the people hate it. The ones who loved it used their imaginations and filled in the blanks. The ones who hated it found the blanks too large to ignore. Neither party did anything "wrong." It's all about taste! And Suez wasn't to everyone's tastes.

Admittedly, it could have been handled differently. But then, I just try to entertain, to tell a story. I hope that--Suez aside--I succeeded in telling said story.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 2, 2008 5:05:35 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 2, 2008 5:07:30 AM PDT
T-Rexx says:
Dear Mr. Recht,

As said in my review of your book, it's always easier to criticize than to actually make works of art. Be it a book, what's more, a ZOMBIE book, it's always art and, not being a writer myself, I am in no position to give recommendations. However, as a reader, I found that the Suez episode -which I LOVED for its international setting by the way, the wrong location of Africa aside (!!)- quite enthralling. Also, the characters were likable, especially the General who was in no way almighty.

Now, I bought your book, read it and enjoyed reading. That's the very reason why I bought your book initially, and that's plenty enough in itself.

However, as said earlier in my review, I got worked up by a number of "little things" that acted as bugs biting the skin throughout the book. It's just that the military cohesion was not there. Yes, you're right, in such a context it would be very difficult to put an organized, global military response together to fight the dead. Also, I understand your comment about the fact that you still had to leave some dead... alive for the sake of your narrative and scenario. But you should have somewhere told the reader that the military (that is, the US') was such in disarray that it could not count on carpet bombing for getting rid of the threat. Just a single line, intertwined in one of the General's calls to his hierarchy or local supervisor, would have been enough to bring this issue with readers' perception to an end, once and for all.

Now, just as a remark, having read extensively on the Zombie theme in the past few months for its post-apocalyptic depiction of mankind -that sounds so damn plausible these days!- I have found out that the books I have enjoyed the most (World War Z, Day by Day Armageddon) are those that are told in an extraordinarily detailed, well researched, "matter-of-fact" fashion. They basically leave no room open for interpretation and are solidly built so that everything is logical (people's attitude and characters, military tactics, social interactions, political reactions, key threats etc.). They bring the reader into a world that could become his, for reasons other than Zombies (global warming, hunger riots, political or economic insurrections etc.). One of the keys to success, for any author, is to strike a chord within the reader's mind, to have him/her feel concerned, involved in the plot and actions. This chord is always based on primal fears. The fear of loneliness, isolation, starvation, (physical and/or mental) corruption, death -you name it! In that perspective, the effect of playing with that specific chord is greatly enhanced by using a realistic approach on the subject. At least, that's my take on it and that's worth what it's worth... If people don't think it could be real, that it could happen to any of them, then they won't buy your idea. For me, that's what happened with the absence of carpet bombing. I don't know, but you could have featured a few aircraft eventually taking off from Guam or Diego Garcia, a third of them making it to the target due to mechanical failure (due to poor maintenance) for instance, another few crashing on the target scene due to pilots' overstress etc. Just an idea.

But anyway, I will gladly buy your next Zombie-themed novel. I feel honored by your having contacted me and, if nothing else, I hope you had a little bit of good time reading through these few remarks.

Take care.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 5, 2008 7:01:09 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 5, 2008 7:03:48 PM PDT
Z. A. Recht says:
I sure did! I never mind a constructive negative review. Never, never, never. They help a writer learn how to function better.

I'm glad you'll keep me in mind for future zombie works. Thunder and Ashes (Plague's sequel) just came out. No carpet-bombing in this one, either, but you might still find a few little bugs in there. =) I have no excuse. I'm more of a run-and-gun writer than a detail-oriented one. I find the explosion more interesting than the bomb, in other words.

Again, thanks for reading and thanks for the review! Have a great day.

PS - I feel compelled to add that the East-West direction FUBAR in the book was NOT my error. I did make that mistake once, near the beginning of the chapter, but it was then picked up and edited into all future directional references. I know my editor and he's a good writer and a great guy, so it was probably one of those "find-and-replace" situations that just ended badly. I know my geography better than that. =) Sorry, I just felt the need to clarify that one little thing.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 6, 2008 2:37:29 PM PDT
T-Rexx says:
Mr. Recht,

See, I had indeed noticed this blatant error, but I did not think that stressing it in my review would have added anything, as numerous reviewers had already been set aflame by it -and had already expressed their displeasure quite vocally, some even ferociously! I have already ordered "Thunder and Ashes" from Amazon, and I'm currently awaiting it anxiously. I will definitely post another review upon closing its last page, stand by it!

By the way, as I am a professional of the aerospace industry, feel free to ask me a question if you plan to feature airplanes in your story. I might be able to help! ;-) Wish you a great success in selling your new book.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 13, 2008 2:21:32 PM PST
Z. A. Recht says:
Thanks very much! I probably could've used your expertise with a couple parts in Thunder and Ashes--but if anything comes up in the future, I'll be sure to keep you in mind. =)

And yeah, heh, the East/West thing has about as much potential to anger complete strangers as does a panhandling mime on a street corner...I admit that it's easy to keep from rising to the bait but only because I'm terrified--if an editing error makes some people *that* angry, what might an actual argument turn in to? The first recorded surf-by shooting? =)

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 15, 2008 1:05:49 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Aug 26, 2010 10:37:57 AM PDT
T-Rexx says:
I posted a review on Thunder and Ashes as soon as I read it. To sum it up: significant improvement from its prequel. If you keep improving your skills exponentially like that, I am ready to bet with you that, should you come up with a third book in the same saga, it will hit the 5* rating, at least on my side! Great stuff, keep on writing! ;-)

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 17, 2009 9:18:07 AM PDT
That's just ridiculous. There is so much wrong with your depiction of the Suez operation that I gagged...maybe you should have read "Six Days of War" or another modern military history of the region before attempting to write about it.

If the scenario doesn't work, you change it so that it does. Surely you see how focusing half the book on a scenario that it is just flat-out ridiculous undermines the entire story? Makes the reader, if they're out of high school, wonder why they should continue?

Anyhow, your book didn't need Suez operation to be a disaster, you already had "asymptomatic carriers" everywhere.
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