Last night I put my Nook down and wiped tears from my cheeks. This author dragged me through the mud and dark night along with his wonderfully human cast of characters. It was exactly what I love in a book, immediately hooked me with a likeable protagonist, lightly paint me some background and let the bullets fly. It didn’t take long before the action began, just long enough for me to decide I really like Mike, the main character for book one. A young history teacher, a fast acting virus that causes the victim to feel no pain and become savagely violent, a nice mix of surviving students, well, I was hooked. This is not a conventional zompoc. The Tilian virus does cause the infected to desire human flesh, however they are not “walking dead”. The infected reminded me of the monsters in the I Am Legend movie with Will Smith, not the novel. Which anyone who has read the novel and seen that version of the movie knows the only thing they have in common is the name of the main character. Anyway, the “Tils”, which is the nickname given to the infected, have that same super aggressive, angry sort of malevolence. So, after the inevitable shit hits the fan, Mike is able to help a small band of students escape to the mountains, picking up a few stragglers along the way. While struggling to carve out an existence, the group encounters the occasional Til that makes it up to their mountain hideaway, but almost worse is the battles with other humans who want to take their supplies, steal the women or just make them miserable. After stumbling across a message about safety to be found on the island of Cuba, the survivors make their way to the Florida coast seeking safety. Book two starts with the survivors trying to make a life on the island. The story is no longer told from Mikes perspective, and at first I was not happy. The story now comes from many different perspectives and once I got past the sorrow of not being solely in Mikes head anymore, I realized this truly enhanced the story as the other characters are likeable in their own ways and brought so much more to the picture. Now we are also introduced to the idea that this virus was created as a weapon. At the same time, a crew is sent back to the mainland to attempt to find survivors. Now we are six years from the initial outbreak and survival is much more difficult as infrastructure starts to fail. I don’t want to ruin the story for anyone who might be intrigued by this review to give the series a shot. But I will say that the author really knows human nature and the demons that each survivor deals with is very realistic and occasionally heart-breaking. Great job, Mr. Calen.
This was the first novel written and self-published by Julie Rudolph. It is a zombie apocalypse offering written in the first person. The protagonist is Cali, a youngish, hip, nurse and mother living in southern California and just going about life when a virus hits and causes everyone to “reanimate”. Cali is living in an apartment complex with her husband and ten year old son and when the shit hits the fan they are not terribly surprised. They seem ready to do what needs to be done due to Cali’s vast reading of zombie fiction and her husbands handiness. They immediately gather supplies and join forces with the few people that remain behind at their walled off, gated complex. The have a few close calls with zombies, a couple of their fellow complex survivors get killed, but basically everyone seems a bit too happy considering they are living among the walking dead. There are a bit too many easy fixes to their situations, for instance, the power finally quits and they just go out and get a whole bunch of solar panels and all the necessaries to make it power their lights, TV’s and fridge. The water that lasted for over a month finally stops and they are able to get out and fill giant containers with water from the neighborhood pools to supply themselves with water, not even thinking how gross a pool looks like after just a few weeks of neglect. But life goes on, there is a wedding and a pregnancy. Gardens are planted and a moat dug. They encounter some regular thug-type bad guys and must defend their complex. And still I thought….everyone is just too happy. No one had their cheese slide off the cracker…..no one crept off in search of missing loved ones….there’s just too many grins and giggles for believable human nature.
Now, this lady has talent. Don’t think this is necessarily a bad review. She has an innate story-telling ability and makes you want to like her characters. She has the ability to build tension and anticipation. However, she is in desperate need of an editor. Someone to guide her along the way and massage that talent into a great book. This is one of the pitfalls of selfie publishing. Very few people are able to self-publish, self-edit, and self-promote their novel successfully. If you are relying on friends or family members as beta readers, or pseudo-editors you will simply not get the truth, they know how hard you worked and what this means to you and that will color their opinions. Also, they don’t posses the skillset and knowledge base to assist you in correction, fact checking , timeline consistency, etc. Unless of course you are lucky enough to have a friend or relative that was a journalism or English major. So that being said, I hope Julie here finds herself an editor and rereleases her novels, because I think we got a live one here!
I will start by saying that I was interested in reading this book firstly because I adore zombie fiction, secondly, I love to read a book that has a handful of one star, absolutely scathing, reviews to balance out the five-star love. What would drive a person to take the time out of their day to totally annihilate an authors work by declaring him an anti-liberal, Obama-hating, snob. I was intrigued and so I read.
The story is about Scott Allen, a lottery winner that spent some of his money on a mega-yacht that he outfitted with all sorts of neat toys. He is on the last leg of an around-the-world trip when a virus is let loose apon the world. Scott’s ship, the Sovereign Spirit, is running up the coast of California, where they have some interesting interactions with military personnel, and eventually utilize their “toys” to rescue survivors and guide a flotilla of boats in seeking safety. Yes, this guy is rich…he won the lottery. His yacht is just returning from a year long expedition, so we can assume that the boat has food, the medical capabilities of taking care of any of his passengers in remote locations in the event of emergency. He has a wide assortment of toys, none of which did I find particularly strange if you have spent any time either watching prepper shows or shows about regular people who win mega lotteries and the crazy things they do with their money. This was totally different take on zompoc, instead of a character struggling to survive and spending all their time running from the zombies, these guys actually thrive and have the capabilities to help others. Not a common theme. And lets face it, its getting a lot harder to come up with a zombie story that hasn’t been written to death. The only thing that really changes anymore is the names and places.
There was, what I would call an aside in the book where a character called Carl, really does struggle to survive and faces some serious obstacles which he overcomes in interesting ways. I really enjoyed the parts with Carl and I think the authors talent really shines during his Interludes in Hell. I would love a whole book dedicated to this character and his adventures.
Next, yes, this book was missing a strong female character. There were not many women in this book, period. The few that were, well, they were simply disappointing. But again, I did not take that personally because quite frankly, I know a lot of women that would be EXACTLY disappointing, if put in a survival situation. Go ahead and call me names….its true. Tell me you don’t know women who would simply fall to pieces without their makeup bag or designer shoes.
Finally, a common complaint among the angry reviewers were the political views they felt were expressed in this book. I guess they feel that a book should be written with only Democrat or Liberal-type characters and everyone should be supporting their fictional president in the fictional story and never should they express any dismay with the current state of affairs in their fictional world. I am a Democrat. I happily voted for our current president and when I read a fiction book, I remember that it is actually a story..about people….who are not me…and may have different views as me….and hey…I am ok with that!