As a huge horror fan of both films and novels, you may be surprised to find I'm not a big zombie addict. While most of my fellow horror hounds go that route, there has never been much to appeal to me about when it comes to rotting corpses stumbling around looking for brains. That being said, Keene has made quite a name for himself in the literary world as one of the best writers of the zombie sub-genre out there. Deciding to ignore the ending of his last and take it to a new direction, Dead Sea is a captivating experience not suitable for the faint of heart.
From page one it's clear this is a different type of story, as action orientated as a book can get. In every chapter there is a crisis that explodes, nothing being held back: tension, fear, violence, and blood. If you're a horror fan this sort of thing will likely be up your alley, as it's far from cheesy and is clearly an intelligent work. There were about a dozen times I thought to myself, how the hell could Keene possibly write the character out of that? It's hopeless! Amazingly things turned around every time, not with stupid cop-outs either, but with pure brilliance.
I don't mean to gush on and on, but when a book keeps making me gasp and tell my boyfriend in detail on how wonderful it is, when it keeps me up half the night and makes me late for work the next day, it's a keeper. I especially loved once they reached the boat and the inevitable slowly happened. I genuinely felt for most of the later munched-on characters, as their personalities had ample time to evolve.
The main hero, Lamar, is not your typical lead - he's a black, gay man in the ghetto trying to do right by the world. Much of the story involves him taking care of two kids he finds along the way of the zombie massacre, feeling like a failure in his own heart, yet unable to back away from responsibility once it's found. The little boy Malik, especially, was adorably sweet with his tough-guy spirit. Each character works ideally, which made it all the more tragic if something happened to them.
For the zombies themselves; whoa! Interestingly Keene decided to have the virus "jump species." First humans, and then slowly others like dogs, cats, etc. Genuinely eerie to have a zombie dog after your tail! I won't go into detail about which species were affected and which weren't (as what happens with them later - or doesn't - is something you'll be wondering for chapters if you ever read this book), but it's fascinating how he adds to and changes the legend around.
Novels that deal with the end of the world have one thing that's easy for them, and that is that it's clear for the reader what the huge obstacle is. Survival is for the fittest, or - in some cases - the lucky. It was nice to note that Keene made the reader question whether survivors were really lucky at all when they had to sit and reflect on what they were surrounded by, who they lost, and what they could potentially become. Just reading one paragraph from this review should tell you I highly recommend this fierce story, but be sure to start reading it early so you can get some sleep!
“... When you died, you were supposed to live on in the memories of others. That's what I'd always been told. Didn't matter what you believed, which religion you subscribed to, what god you worshipped. The simple fact was that none of us knew what lay beyond. Immortality and eternal life? The only sure shot at that was the memories of those you left behind - your friends and family...”
Zombie Book Reviews: