Friday, 22 June 2012

'Siege'- Rhiannon Frater (Tor)

Despite a few misgivings along the way, I've enjoyed reading Rhiannon Frater's 'As The World Dies' books; it was just a bit of a shame that the major misgiving I had covered all of the second book. You can read the reviews of the first two books Here and Here but, if you don't want to, it's all summed up just below...

On 'The First Days'

'These were relatively small complaints though when placed against a book that does a superb job of detailing people’s reactions, and what they find themselves capable of, when zombies quite literally land on their doorstep. I’m there for the next book, really looking forward to it!'

On 'Fighting to Survive'

'To be blunt, after clearing out the hotel the fort is just too safe; zombies cannot get in and survivors are checked for bites etc before they can be allowed to stay...'

‘Fighting to Survive’ does everything that ‘The First Days’ did so well but suffers a little bit too much from ‘middle book syndrome’ to be truly effective. I’ll still be around for the conclusion though.'

It took me a little while to get to that concluding part but I got there in the end! Like I said, there was enough to the story to hold my interest and well, you know, zombies :o) Those earlier misgivings meant that I was a little wary this time round though and it turned out that I had good reason to be. 'Siege' looks amazing but if you dig a little deeper, well...

The old world is long gone but a new one is slowly taking shape in Ashley Oaks, Texas. With the fort safe from zombie attack; Katie and Jenni have not only been able to find new love but Katie will soon give birth to her first child.

All isn't well though... Zombies cluster at the gates, trying to get in, and must be dealt with regularly. Inside the fort itself, divisive factions seek to gain power while the mysterious vigilante dispenses lethal justice of his own. And if all that wasn't enough, a former US senator (and her soldiers) is casting envious looks in the direction of the fort. When the largest zombie horde ever seen appears on the horizon, will anyone be left alive...?

On the surface, 'Siege' looks to be a rousing finale for the 'As The World Dies' trilogy. It's packed full of zombies and hard people having to make hard decisions off the back of this post-apocalyptic landscape. A zombie bite, or scratch, is a death sentence and Frater doesn't flinch from what it's like to have her cast carry this sentence out. There are some really heart rending moments for the reader... Add to this the fact that Frater's cast are genuinely flawed people (who often can't see the big picture past their own desires) and will endanger everything just to increase their own standing. All the best zombie tales focus on how humanity's inability to co-operate will cause big problems and 'Siege' is no different. The reader has a tale that is nothing short of compelling when it really gets going, just like it did in 'The First Days'.

Is it enough though? I didn't think so by the time I finally put the book down.

The best zombie films/books etc really make the point that life is cheap in this scenario and that death can come quickly for anyone. No-one is truly safe and that is what keeps things so fresh and engaging. Is your favourite character going to make it to the end? And what kind of an ending will that be? Usually very bleak...

Rhiannon Frater's big problem is that she cannot bear to let any of her main characters die, not even the ones who actually die (which lent a para-normal air to the proceedings completely at odds with the gritty bleakness that had been the norm). If you're a member of the supporting cast then you're fair game. These characters die in their droves and as a result, Frater is able to point to a high body count that's in keeping with zombie fiction. These are all people who don't really matter though; people that you'd be hard pressed to remember if you hadn't read the other two books fairly recently. There's no attachment to these characters (at least there wasn't for me), they're just a part of the scenery to be chewed on by various zombies.

The main players though? They're pretty much guaranteed clear passage to the very last page of the book, even if they die in the meantime (can you tell that really bugged me?) Maybe I'm just not used to an optimistic zombie tale but this approach robbed the story of a whole load of the suspense and had me foccusing on what was going on, in the background, rather than the plot itself. Why do otherwise? I knew that these people were going to make it.

I think the fairest thing to say about 'Siege' (and possibly the other two books as well) is that it's 'zombie lite'. It looks good but shys away from tackling the themes that really matter, the themes that could have pushed this book to the next level. Black and white then with no shades of grey. It's a shame given how good the first book was...

Seven and Three Quarters out of Ten

1 comment: said...

I just finished Ms. Frater's series and I have to thank you for the recommendation. I truly enjoyed it and found myself wishing there was more! Love those zombies, and being from Texas, the setting was just icing on the cake.
Any other great zombie books I may have missed?