Series: AS THE WORLD DIES TRILOGY
Plot Type: Zombie Chick Lit
Ratings: V5; S3; H2
Publisher and Titles: Tor:
The First Days (2011)
Fighting to Survive (11-2011)
As the World Dies: Untold Tales, Vol. 1 (2011) (three novellas set in the world of the series)
Just in case you missed it, Frater has one of the characters explain several times that the action in this story closely mirrors the action in George A. Romero's film, Dawn of the Dead (e.g., the mall, the blonde pregnant heroine, the black hero, the helicopters). I'm not sure what the point is, but the author isn't at all subtle about drawing the comparison.
As the story begins, Katie saves Jenni from being eaten by her zombified oldest son, and they take off for the country in an old pick-up truck, shooting and running over masses of zombies along the way—all in glorious, gory detail. Eventually, they find two survivors—Ralph and Nerit Toombs—a married couple who own and live over a hunting supply store—and the two women briefly stay with them. But Jenni feels compelled to try to rescue her stepson, Jason, who is at a campground hours away. Again, we follow Katie and Jenni as they truck across the zombie-infested countryside. After a harrowing rescue effort at the camp, they go back on the road again in an attempt to get back to the Toombs' store, but wind up instead in the small town of Ashley Oaks, where a large group of survivors have built themselves a fort-like safety zone. The rest of the book focuses on that tiny society as they appoint their leaders, reinforce their perimeters, and deal with (i.e., destroy) the zombies who were formerly their friends, neighbors, and family.
A few of the supporting characters are well developed, particularly the Toombs and two male characters in Ashley Oaks: Travis and Juan, who become the love interests. The rest of the townspeople fall into stereotypical roles: the red-neck bigot, the ineffective mayor, the young but courageous policeman, the misguided naysayer, etc.
An additional problem comes with characterization, particularly with Jenni, who goes from a shell-shocked, abused, suburban housewife and mother to a cold-hearted zombie killer to a dependent, whiny, adolescent all in one 24-hour period. No wonder Juan nicknames her "Loca." You never know what to expect from Jenni, as she goes overboard on her buddy relationship with Katie, and then goes man-crazy over Travis and then Juan. Unlike Katie, who grieves endlessly for Lydia, Jenni doesn't look back very often. After the first day, she seems mostly to forget about those grisly baby fingers that hypnotized her in the opening scene. It was impossible for me to believe that in less than one week, a mother could put aside her children's horrible deaths and have romantic thoughts about two different men she has just met. Here is a quotation from a scene that takes place on the second day of the zombie plague. Remember, Jenni saw her husband eat her baby son just the day before:
The zombie action scenes are frequent, naturally enough, but sometimes they cry out for a graphic artist for clarity. In particular, the scene where the townspeople wipe out the local zombie population is hard to follow. Also, if the urban populations are wiped out, how can the power grid and the water supply still be holding up? These people are dealing only with the zombies, not with the survival issues that we would normally expect in a situation as catastrophic as this one. All in all, I give this series an A for its fresh take on its heroines, but a C for plot and characterization.