It’s no secret to people who have read some of my past reviews that I am not a huge horror fan. But since we are getting closer to Halloween I thought I would try to embrace the holiday and read some horror-adjacent books. I’m a little bit of a wimp, so it’s nothing too scary or intense, but I wanted to get outside of my comfort zone of classic Gothic horror and go closer towards or contemporary stuff. I didn’t want to get too intense to start. Which is why we have a zombie story because zombies aren’t that terrifying. In this case, they’re a little bit different than what you might consider “zombies” though.
Welcome to a world turned to ashes.
Annie Starling is missing her memory of the last eight weeks—the most devastating in history. It started in Russia and went global in a matter of days, the most virulent virus the world has ever known. It’s stripping its victims of every last thing that makes them human. And that’s just the beginning. The other survivors are no less dangerous than the infected.
She meets Lane, who stops at nothing to assert power and control over everybody who’s left; Kyle, who dreams of building a new world upon the ruins of the old; Hughes, who lost the ability to feel after burying his family; and Parker, who threatens to tear himself and his companions apart.
And when her memories finally return, Annie discovers a terrifying secret that could change everything—but she can’t tell a soul what it is.
Like a Zombie but Not a Zombie
Let’s first talk about the zombie aspect as it is a big part of the narrative and why I chose this book at all. I know you might think a few different things when you think of zombies. I think of the undead that is very slow, not smart, and are defeated by staircases–that sort of a zombie. It’s not exactly what we have in this story. I’m going to try hard to not spoil anything important about what happens with the zombies.
First of all, they’re not undead humans. They’re diseased humans. A disease that makes them very aggressive and less susceptible to feeling pain and animalistic almost in how they function. So the reason that they end up attacking humans and eating their flesh isn’t so much because of the unsatiated hunger for human brains but because they have all of this aggression. They don’t eat humans in the same way either. It’s not about sustenance; it’s about being so angry at a thing that exists in the world that they want to rip it apart anyway that they can. It’s about destruction and less about hunger.
It’s honestly so weird to read a book about a global pandemic changing the way that humans exist in 2020 because there was a time when I would think of it that and say, “wow, that’s so beyond my current reality that it’s scary,” in a different way. Whereas now it’s scary in an “I recognize this threat” kind of way. Not to the same extent and not as quickly, and it was a different kind of global pandemic, but it’s still a really strange experience. There were multiple times while reading this book that I was very aware of my current reality in a way that I don’t think a story like this would have ever made me feel in the past.
More Thrills, Less Chills
I still wasn’t scared of the actual novel, which I find a little bit disappointing. I was expecting to have to read this book in small chunks and not enjoy certain parts of it or even giving up on the book because of it, but there was nothing so inherently terrifying. I guess because I was looking for supernatural horrors, and this book is very much grounded in reality. There’s nothing super unnatural or mystical that’s happening around the events of the novel. It’s all horrors that can be found either in our current reality or that can be explained with our current reality.
I don’t know whether or not it should be worrying that I don’t find those terrifying anymore or if it should be a good thing that I’m not concerned about them. Or maybe I’m just not as big of a wimp as I thought I was, but, I mean, I still jump sudden noises even if they’re no loud, so it probably isn’t that.
Just Humans Being Humans
I think what I enjoyed about this novel was the people at the centre of it. For me, the story wasn’t about zombies. This story was about a group of humans trying to figure out how to work together even if they didn’t particularly like each other. It’s about them trying to navigate a world that on a grand scale is the same as it’s always been but on an individual scale is very different. A group of people that, through chance and luck, happened to be some of the last people on the planet, and now they have to figure out a way to save it for their survival. They’re not particularly special, and they don’t have the required skills for it. They just happened to live longer than the other.
And I think it’s amazing that I learned enough about these characters throughout the book that I could predict the way that they would react to events even if I couldn’t predict the events themselves. And even though I didn’t like all of the characters–I disliked a substantial percentage of them,–I was still very engrossed in what they were doing and the hardships that they were thrown into with no preparation. I wouldn’t even go as far as to say that their anti-heroes because I don’t think they’re heroes. They’re just people trying to make it work in a world that is very much against them. And I think there’s something admirable in just watching that kind of story unfold.
So I didn’t get the supernatural thriller I was both hoping and dreading I was going to get out of this novel, but I did get an interesting story about human survival. There were some scary parts in it but mostly the darker side of human nature and desperation, and there were other parts that were heartbreaking. I also know that this is the first book in a series of some kind, but I haven’t looked into the follow-up books. While I think the story is interesting enough for the time that I spent with it, I’m not connected enough to the world or to the characters for me to seek them out again.
It hasn’t scared me off of looking at other supernatural/thriller/horror books, so I guess I’m going to have to read another one. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get a couple more out before the end of the month. And I won’t have horrible nightmares because of it.