Amazon Rating: 3.90 / 5.00
Goodreads Rating: 3.64 / 5.00
Disclaimer: I was sent a copy of this book free from the author via a Librarything Member Giveaway, in return for an honest review.
When it starts it looks just like a bad case of influenza: soar throat, coughing and a raging fever. However, it rapidly becomes a bad case of death . . . and then undeath, as the victims return as cannibalistic zombies. Nobody knows where it came from or how it started, but it is spreading like wildfire around the globe . . .
We follow several individuals as they struggle with the end of the world. They come from all walks of life: a Nevada prostitute, a Costco worker, a family man, an illegal Mexican immigrant, an airline pilot and the captain of a nuclear submarine, amongst others. Everything familiar is stripped away as they fight for survival, showing that the most unlikely people can be the best at dealing with the apocalypse.
After reading World War Z for the first time a year ago I realized that not all zombie novels are as simple as they appear at first. They can be used to say a lot about society and the psychology of those presented with the end of their world. So, when I saw the synopsis for this title, which seemed to be centered on Megan Pritchard, a prostitute, I was hopeful that her profession was more of an interesting character back-story than a way to force some gratuitous sex into the plot. I am pleased to say that this proved to be the case, although we begin the book with a rather distasteful description of her encounter with her last ‘John’. Megan proves to be a surprisingly engaging heroine, although one would expect that anyone who engages in prostitution would need a lot of mental toughness. She is resourceful and surprisingly lacking in the usual ‘too stupid to live’ gene that is so prevalent in heroines. Supplying me with a female lead that is not a damsel in distress will always get extra credit from me!
The other ‘strong’ woman that we see, Commander Betty Hollister, is much less likeable. She is the first female commander of a ballistic nuclear missile submarine in the US Navy, and her reactions to the command to drop nuclear bombs on all the major population centers on the American west coast are highly unpleasant. Her portrayal is almost so negative as to be misogynistic, so I was glad that we had some very positive female characters to provide counterbalance. However, she makes an interesting and understandable villain: she is totally repellent and utterly ruthless whilst being far cleverer than her male subordinates. I most definitely did not like her, but I her decisions make sense within her worldview.
We see a similar range of male characters. Perhaps the most sympathetic are Jack, a husband and father of twin girls, and Cesar, an illegal Mexican trying to get back into the US after deportation. These are both caring men who work selflessly to help others. Of course, there are the inevitable betrayals, so not everyone will leave you feeling all warm and fuzzy.
This decision to show a wide range of positive and negative reactions to the plague makes this book much more interesting than I expected. However, the decision to follow so many points of view at the very beginning does make it feel somewhat confusing at first. I liked the fact that not all of these characters survived, making the ever-present danger very real and keeping us guessing about who will last to the end of the book, so this makes the multiple POVs acceptable. I also liked the way that their various stories gradually became intertwined with one another, so that we finally saw a group coming together. However, we have no real resolution in this title as it the first in a trilogy, although this did make me decide to buy the omnibus edition that includes all three titles.