by David Moody
I expect a lot from my zombie fiction – terror, suspense, action, snappy dialogue, characters I can care about – and if it’s a novel really firing on all cylinders, originality. In other words, authors don’t get a free pass to slack off just because they’ve gone the zombie route. It’s true that part of the genre’s enduring appeal comes from its familiar tropes – I read the books (and watch the movies) because the stuff I’m pretty certain will happen is all good, reliable fun. So while the overall story always feels familiar, the devil is in the details. If an author / filmmaker can take what’s so awesome about the genre but add a twist or two that’s totally new and unexpected, well then, you have not just a winner, ladies and gentlemen, but a champion.
David Moody has come dangerously close to outright failure on all these counts with this second installment of his multi-book Autumn series (read about the series here). Words cannot express how supremely disappointed I am in this installment but I’m gonna try.
First off, this is a “companion” book, not a sequel, because it really doesn’t move the story along at all, but rather re-tells the plot of Book 1, just from the perspective of a different group of survivors. Two characters from Book 1 show up again and briefly add to the action. One online review points out: “Had you not read the 1st book in the series you could still pick this one up and start without being lost.” Yeah you could, because it’s essentially the same goddamn book! The only thing that prevents it from being identical is that Moody moves the story a smidge forward in the last few pages to set up Book 3. What could have improved things tremendously is if the first two books and 600+ pages had been edited down to one exciting book and 350 pages. So, strike one.
Strike two: this book is DULL. How the hell can a zombie apocalypse ever be dull? I didn’t think it was possible, but there’s just no fierce tension or heart-pounding action. There are some scenes running from zombies that should get the adrenaline going, but just fall flat. And for this I’m really pissed because I know Moody can write awesome action sequences like nobody’s business (check out Hater), and draw out the suspense until you scream Uncle. This effort is underwhelming to say the least. I love zombies, and I think Moody is pretty cool, but I refuse to let this one slide, regardless of the book blurbs waxing poetic on its awesomeness and even the gushing reviews popping up elsewhere on the Web. What the hell people? Have your standards dropped so low, or is that all you expect from zombie fiction these days?
Strike three: I know I mentioned that “different” or original is good, but zombies that don’t bite (and continue to decay) kinda suck ass. The premise sort of intrigued me in Book 1. Moody almost had me convinced that zombies don’t have to rip you up to be frightening – get enough of them and you’re either smothered or crushed. But after reading another 320 pages of this kind of lurching zombie behavior, with no gore, no ripping, no biting, I’m suddenly not so enamored anymore.
So three strikes you’re out, right? ::sigh:: I am going to read on in this series though, because I have to believe it will get better. I’m also curious to see just how far Moody will take the story. So far, he’s only tackled the first weeks of the apocalypse. That’s the easy part to tell. The tough part is what happens next. Will he go there, and what will his post-apocalyptic world look like populated by desiccated reanimated corpses?