Wednesday, 18 May 2011

‘Apocalypse of the Dead’ – Joe Mckinney (Pinnacle Fiction)

It was way back in September 2009 that a casual re-read of Joe Mckinney’s ‘Dead City’ became a full blown review, have a click Here and see what I mean. The review details all the reasons why I’d recommend this book so I won’t go into them all over again; lets just say that (despite a couple of issues) fans of zombie fiction should definitely give ‘Dead City’ a go if they haven’t already.

I thought ‘Dead City’ was a one off so I was more than pleasantly surprised when the author himself stopped by the blog and let us all know that a sequel ‘Cataclysm’ was due out sometime in 2010. Me being me, I totally forgot about this (other stuff going on and lots of it...) so I was once again more than pleasantly surprised to find the sequel nestling on the bookshelf, in Forbidden Planet, at the back end of November last year. It wasn’t called ‘Cataclysm’ at all but that still didn’t stop me picking the book and taking it home right away. Once again, a book that I’ve really been looking forward to has taken a long time to finally be read but I got there in the end and it was well worth it. The last review was for Book Smuggler Thea so this one is as well :o)

Two years have passed since hurricanes tore through the Gulf Coast and the zombie virus arose from the wreckage to prey on the living. Whole cities and vast areas of land have been quarantined and survivors left to fend for themselves behind hastily erected walls. Anyone caught trying to escape is shot on sight.

And then the infection breaks the quarantine...

Within weeks the planet is reeling from an unprecedented swarm of zombies and it’s soon up to people to survive as best they can with little or no help from those in charge. Searching for a cure may be more than just a pipedream but for the likes of retired US Marshall Ed Moore it’s all about making a final stand when all else fails. That stand may come sooner than Ed thinks when the people he has worked so hard to protect are caught in between the plans of an apocalyptic preacher and a horde of zombies thousands strong...

I tore through ‘Dead City’, when I first picked it up, and the same can be said for ‘Apocalypse of the Dead’. It may have taken me a while to get to it but it didn’t take nearly as long for me to finish it off. McKinney builds on what we first saw in ‘Dead City’ and takes his story onto a much larger stage; the zombie invasion has just gone epic... That’s not to say that the book isn’t without its issues though which occasionally made for a less than smooth reading experience.

‘Dead City’ was a short sharp burst of action (only taking place over a day or two if my memory serves me correctly) and McKinney proved to be more than adept at keeping his plot on a short leash and powering it forward at one hell of a rate of knots. ‘Apocalypse of the Dead’ is an entirely different read though with attention paid to how the virus can spread (and society collapse around it) over a longer period of time. As a result of this approach, McKinney has to switch between ‘short/intense’ pieces and passages that are a little more drawn out (so we can get a ‘wide screen’ feel for the changes to the landscape). It’s a necessary approach to take but the pacing does come across as very choppy because of it and I was left with a ‘stop/start’ read that took a while to get back into every time it started going again.

It’s also worth pointing out that ‘Apocalypse of the Dead’ isn’t the thoughtful novel that its predecessor was. Again, you can appreciate why this is the case as the focus has changed from the last novel. People know a lot more about the zombies now and are more concerned about surviving the onslaught than they are thinking about why zombies are around in the first place (and whether they are zombies at all). I missed that air of thoughtfulness though; there’s nothing wrong with an action packed read (such as this) but I couldn’t help but wonder if opportunities for further exploration were being missed. To be fair, McKinney does explore the attitude of certain survivors (freedom eventually leads to anarchy) but this was a one off as oppose to the general rule.

Don’t worry though, if you enjoyed ‘Dead City’ then ‘Apocalypse of the Dead’ still has plenty to offer the hardened zombie fan as well as newcomers (you don’t have to had read ‘Dead City’ to get stuff out of this book).

Issues with pacing aside, McKinney does a great job of showing his reader just how the zombie virus can resurface despite the best attempts of the government to halt it’s spread. Any good piece of zombie fiction highlights the failings of humanity to cope and that’s just what happens here.

What you get next is essentially a story of survival set against a crumbling infrastructure that cannot cope with this new onslaught of the dead. The background is appropriately dark yet strangely poignant at the same time, McKinney does well to show us just what the characters are all losing while they fight to survive. The odds are stacked against our band of leading characters as they must cope with the undead as well as the lawless inhabitants of this new landscape. McKinney shines a light directly onto all of his characters as they fight to keep moving forward and, while you may not agree with their motives or actions, you can’t deny that McKinney has taken a lot of time to populate his books with characters that you can’t help but follow.

Everything then clicks up a gear for a finale that underlines the fact that humanity is it’s own worst enemy when faced with something of this undead nature. There’s plenty happening although you just know that certain characters will make it out alive. That let some of the tension bleed out but, overall, I couldn’t really complain at all over how it pans out by the end.

‘Apocalypse of the Dead’ suffers from certain structural issues that mean it doesn’t reach the heights it could have done. The book remains a thoroughly gripping read though and McKinney shows us all, once again, that he knows what he is on about as far as zombies are concerned. Bring on ‘Flesh Eaters’, I won’t leave that one so long before I pick it up...

Eight and a Half out of Ten


Nic said...

I read "Apocalypse of the Dead" several weeks ago and I have to say that it is even better then "Dead City".
The characters in it are really good and the plotline is strong. I couldn't forsee the incidents there.

I already bought "Flesh Eaters" which is next on my reading pile after I finished Anthony Riches' "Wounds of Honour".

I had contact with Joe McKinney and I have to say that he is a great guy and you see his experiences with the police in this book (also in Dead City).

Anonymous said...

I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I also thought it was deeper than the first book.
Having just watched a documentary about various cults, I found the book devastating in impact and a most excellent read.

Xenophon said...

Since you seem to be obsessed with zombies, here is the official CDC zombie preparedness page. Thought you would get a laugh out of it...

Anonymous said...

I fudged up and read apocalypse of the dead before dead city.. I found apocalypse of the dead more detailed which i liked and how story isnt just about one person but several who all come together at the end... But i was dissapointed with the ending.. What happens to the guy nate? (i think) the one who doesnt turn from being bit do the people who stopped the RV's get him or do all the infected die off?