Puppies, strangers, helping—well, as Cassius says to a third party, ““It’s better if I’m strict than for a mistake to eventually cost her her life.” That division between the protagonists gives fresh resonance to tense but at times familiar zombie-fiction story beats as the duo faces both a host of zombies but also that other wasteland standby: other humans, duplicitous and mad with power, indulging in man-eating and manifestos alike. But there’s hope, too, the form of a pregnant woman who hopes to get to a rumored boat city.
The story moves fast, in episodic story-like chapters, and Csák proves adept at the logistics of this hardscrabble life, at dramatizing philosophical differences through dialogue and choices, at glimpses of wreckage and carnage that stir a despairing awe. The anticipation of violence is more effectively handled than the action itself, which suffers from imprecise prose, and the human villains in the book’s back half won’t surprise readers who have feasted on earlier zombie stories. More interesting are the protagonists and their reluctant companions, figuring out what they’re living for. The dogs, too, are inspired—both the puppy Abigail claims, and the fearsome ferals.
Takeaway: Epic but highly focused and humane story of zombie survival.
Comparable Titles: Brian Keene’s The Rising, David Moody’s Autumn.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A-