Friday, 18 November 2011

‘Double Dead’ – Chuck Wendig (Abaddon Books)

You all know full well by now that I love a good zombie read just as much as the next man. Actually, it’s probably more accurate to say that I love a good zombie read even more than the next man... I can’t get enough of the stuff and I’m not going to go into all the reasons why; it’s not like you don’t know them already ;o)

One criticism I will level, at zombie fiction, though is that... well, it’s all the same really isn’t it? It can be as well written as you like (and a lot of it is, click on the ‘zombies’ tag at the bottom of this review and see what I mean) but it really just covers the same thing over and over again. The dead rise, they eat people and the survivors try to make some kind of life for themselves amongst the ruins of the apocalypse (occasionally having to shoot a loved one who has ‘turned’). It’s all well and good but even I find myself wanting a zombie story that’s ‘different’ every now and again. And I’m not just talking about having zombies that run either...
Thank the good Lord for Abaddon Books then, a publisher that I’m already indebted to for their excellent ‘Tomes of the Dead’ series (one of several series that they publish). ‘Tomes of the Dead’ hasn’t failed me yet (well, apart from... actually, no, they’re all good) and the latest instalment carries on in that vein, albeit with exactly the kind of spin I was looking for.

Is there anything worse than being one of the few living people left in a world of zombies? Well, you could be a vampire...
Coburn has been asleep for the last five years and the world he greets upon awakening is far different to the one that he left behind. There’s a lot more zombies for one thing, millions of them. Along with all the usual difficulties associated with a zombie apocalypse Coburn’s need for a constant supply of fresh human blood is about to force him to make some radical lifestyle changes. No longer can Coburn plunder his food supply with no fear of it running out; there aren’t many living humans left at all and Coburn must now protect the ones that he finds on his journey through a shattered America. If the zombies don’t get to his food supply, what’s following him surely will and it’s ten times worse than any zombie...

Thanks for the read Chuck, just when my zombie reads were starting to look dangerously ‘samey’ you came along with a neat little spin that casts the same old stuff in a brand new light that I found myself having to finish off in one sitting. That was just what I was after and I had a hell of a time reading ‘Double Dead’ as a result.

‘Double Dead’ is a deceptively simple little read that weighs in at a ‘slight(ish)’ three hundred and eleven pages. It is full of everything that you would expect from an Abaddon read and it’s all delivered in fine style. We’re talking a dangerously bleak yet surreal post apocalyptic landscape where life can be brutally short if you’re not careful. As such, this landscape is populated by just the kind of people you would expect to thrive in such a setting; bad asses, psychotic cannibals, religious fundamentalists and those poor unfortunates whose only role is to either be killed off (by religious fundamentalists) or eaten by unceasing hordes of zombies. Put all these people together and what have you got? I’ll tell you. Wendig knows only too well that such a combination of people can only result in explosive death and he delivers in a variety of ways, punctuating the narrative with an array of pyrotechnics and death by rotten teeth (I’m not just talking about the zombies either). The result is a rhythm to the plot that can get a little too repetitive but I was more than willing to let that go when things really kicked off and bestial characters went at each other amidst the explosions. You really wouldn’t want to live in Wendig’s post apocalyptic world of zombies, and insane clowns, but it’s all too easy to pull up a seat and let the action wash over you. Wendig has created a zombie infested world that you will enjoy spending time in.

It’s not just a world of zombies though and that’s the beautiful thing about ‘Double Dead’. The introduction of a vampire into the mix throws everything up in the air and, once it all lands; it’s a whole different ball game to what you would expect. Coburn’s plight casts a whole new light on the demands of living through a zombie apocalypse and it felt fresh enough to me that I had to hang around and see what the plot threw up. The problem here is that because Coburn’s primary need is very simple, the plot can only really throw up the same problem (Coburn running out of blood, albeit in a variety of ways) over and over again. Wendig gets round this by making Coburn’s efforts more and more explosive and it does pay off in terms of pushing the plot forward at a frantic rate. Coburn’s development as a character is also worth sticking around for. It’s done so subtly that even Coburn doesn’t know what’s going on but he ends the tale a far different character to the one who began it, a far more sympathetic character than you would at first believe (and he deserves it). Before that point though, Coburn carries the plot forward in true vampire style; a viciously charismatic character powerful enough to do whatever he likes and laugh it off afterwards. What’s interesting to follow is how his attitude doesn’t change, even while the reasons for what he is doing change all the time. ‘Double Dead’ has a ‘stand alone’ feel to it but I wouldn’t mind seeing more of Coburn in the future.

I didn’t realise that my faith in zombie novels was starting to wane but ‘Double Dead’ restored it anyway. There’s something here for both zombie and vampire fans (apart from ‘Twilight’ fans, obviously) and it’s all drenched in blood and entrails.

Nine out of Ten


Chuck said...

An awesome review. This is very cool, thanks for writing it!

-- Chuck

Graeme Flory said...

No worries, you stopped me hulking out on the daily commute so I owe you one ;o)

SQT said...

I had to buy this. The premise was just too good to pass up. Glad to hear it's good.