A widespread disease has ravaged humanity—symptoms include: animalistic rage, violent outbursts, and a ravenous hunger for human flesh. Among the few people left are Asher, Wendy, and Rico, thrust together to fight for their lives and find sanctuary, before the world becomes overrun by the infected. Although fear of the infected is ever present, the group finds themselves facing some very human concerns, as well as new adversaries.
First-time author Zachary Taylor Linville is taking his bite out of the zombie fiction genre. The question is, are we zombied out or is there room for another tale of the hungry dead?
Well, in Linville’s able hands, the answer is that there’s definitely room for one more. Especially with his interesting take on the tale. We first meet Asher and Wendy, and later Rico and his little stepbrother Jayden, as they make their way through a world already familiar to most of the readers who will pick up this book, where survivors creep through an abandoned wasteland stalked by the infected, as they make their way to an (unnamed) amusement park on the outskirts of Orlando, FL. (I blame copyright lawyers for this!)
Okay, so far so good, but Linville quickly turns it on his head by flashing back Lost-like to pre-infection days, so we can see what led our main characters to where they are now. Asher is a coffee-shop barista longing for love. Rico is a troubled drug-dealing kid, lashing out due to anger over his parents divorce. Counterpointing pre- and post-infection, Linville flavors his story, laying out the simple details for things that will be important later on, without tipping his hand as to how the stories will inter-relate.
For a first-time author, Linville manages to keep his stories well in line and the voices of his narrators distinct and fresh. He also strikes a nice balance between “Before” and “After,” with the heavy action of the ruined “After” world nicely counterpointed by the minutiae that people obsess over in the “Before” sections, doling out hints and clues as to what happened and what led these people here. Mostly ignored news bulletins foreshadow the approaching crisis. Before, Asher worries about the ratios in a coffee beverage. After, he obsesses guilt over something as small as tying his shoe. It’s a crafty way to give us the backstory about these characters without actually data-summing it on us. And luckily the Before stories are as interesting as the After ones.
However, as interesting as the story is, and as much as I’d like to give it five stars (or something similar), I have to pull back one ranking for one reason, and one reason only…
… this is the first book of a series . . .
… and the second book isn’t out yet. So, when you get to the end, possibly like I did, wondering how Linville was going to tie all this big heap of story together and wrap it up, you’re going to find that he didn’t… yet. Does knowing that diminish Asher, Wendy, and Rico’s story? Not in the least, but you can be prepared for the ending. Similar to Justin Cronin’s great vampire book, The Passage, you’ve been given a wonderful meal, but you still want more!!!
The best way to read this is like going into a season of The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones: trust your storyteller - he’s got some great writing chops - and know that not all your questions will be answered by the end. But that doesn’t diminish the great ride you’re gonna have getting there one single bit.
And like those stories, you just know that Linville’s probably got something up his sleeve… besides a bloody, half-chewed arm.
“Jayden!” he yells out, abandoning the ruling water in the sink and darting for the deck. “Jayden!”
“There is no answer as Rico climbs the stairs two at a time. The deck is barren. He looks over board into the deep-red ocean water. The rhythm of the currents picks up, tossing the boat forcibly back and forth. Rico drops to his knees and holds the railing tightly to stabilize his balance. A large wave crashes over the top of the boat, and the red water spills across the white deck. A second wave crashes over the side, soaking Rico. Expecting salt water, Rico gags and coughs out blood, his mouth filled with the coppery taste.”
VERDICT: FOUR Abandoned E-ticket Attractions out of FIVE