by Scott A. Johnson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Deadlands / 1-891799-30-4
Zombie fiction can typically be pretty hit or miss, but "Deadlands" is a fresh take on the genre. Where the "typical" zombie fiction focuses on the "when it all happened" aspect, often set in the very near future, "Deadlands" chooses to jump ahead to the dystopia future, and shows us a world where zombies are the norm and where the survivors simply try to eke out a living underground, where it is relatively safer than on the blistering surface of a ruined world. The decimated earth is patrolled constantly by hordes of undead, and the small pockets of humanity cling to life, wondering if it is worth it all.
I enjoyed this novel immensely. Though it is fairly short, the material is engaging and new, and the action was comfortably unpredictable without expecting the reader to suspend belief. The introduction of the "intelligent zombie" was done carefully and seemed well thought-out. I especially liked the inside perspective on being turned to a zombie, as well as the fascinating explanations for the zombies' erratic movements and irrational hunger. Also worth noting is that nearly every conversation in this book sounds like it might have actually come from a real person. I feel that is pretty noteworthy in 'fringe' fiction like this and I applaud the author for that.
The novel isn't perfect. For some odd reason, the three main characters all have "C" names - Cain, Christian, and Cadence - but my eye didn't get confused too often while reading. Another character, Tierra, has incredible potential as a jealous lover and a recipient of dreams and hopes she could never attain, and I was disappointed that we didn't see more of her. Also, somewhere around the last third of the novel, some of the more auxiliary characters seemed to become unrealistically stereotyped, but by that point I was sucked into the story enough that I didn't care enough to detract from my enjoyment. I was also a little bothered that out of a whole, varied group of women in a "pregnant by rape" situation, every single one of them was immediately in the staunchly anti-abortion camp; this seemed terribly unrealistic for such a large group.
All in all, I found "Deadlands" to be an entertaining read and I don't regret my purchase, although some might feel the price to be a bit high for such a short read. I guess it depends on how desperate you are for good zombie fiction. I hope we see more from this author in the future.
~ Ana Mardoll
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