September 12, 2011

Book Review: Plauge of the Dead: The Morningstar Strain

Plague of the Dead: The Morningstar Strain
Z.A. Recht
Morningstar Saga #1
Genre: Horror, Apocalyptic Fiction
Creature Feature: ZOMBIES!

Plague of the Dead is not my usual fanfare here at Wickedly Bookish, however it is in one of my favorite genres; books about the apocalypse! No, no one likes to think about the end of the world, but you've got to admit there is just something about a good dystopian plot where we truly can blame the government for all our problems.

Yes, this is a book about zombies overrunning the planet. Basically, the American military is experimenting with viruses in Africa for possible future biological warfare. They call it, the Morningstar Strain, and what do you know, some of it just happens to get out and infect the general population. Nice job guys. Countries from all over the world pitch in their soldiers to help evacuate uninfected civilians and barricade the "carriers" inside the continent.   Of course, we all know this can't possibly work, but it's a neat idea. Recht puts an interesting spin on the zombie apocalypse making this a thought provoking read. Is this something that could happen in the foreseeable future?

I really liked the author's explanation for slow and fast zombies. Fast zombies are called "sprinters" and are living carriers of the virus that have been taken over by its parasitic nature. Slow zombies or "shamblers" are reanimated carriers whose bodies are bogged down by the effects of rigor mortis. Cool huh? There are some pretty neat concepts in this book and calling the virus Morningstar was just ingenious because it really does just pulverize everything in its path.The virus is a blood-borne disease and therefore can infect everyone if they get bitten or scratched making the story that much more tragic. Many characters almost get away and then are infected at the last possible moment. I have to admit, there were times I got paranoid over how easy this virus would be to spread around the U.S.  Many coughing strangers incited me to consider the merits of my household items as zombie bashing weapons.

Plague of the Dead is well written and fun to read, however the emotional side of the story fell flat for me about a third of the way in. Most of the characters are in the military and therefore are being addressed by their last names. That would have been fine if half their names didn't sound the same and start with similar letters. I found myself flipping pages back to figure out who the hell just ate it and if I should care. "Was it the guy I was starting to like? Nope, never mind, nobody important to the story." Of course I was sad when people got infected and either killed themselves or succumbed to the virus, but really many of the characters lacked depth for me. Almost all of the lower ranked soldier characters were the generic smart-ass sarcastic, foul mouthed soldier which is important to have a similar character to lighten the mood, however it just gets annoying after the second guy. It was almost like the author said, "Hey, people will like this character so much, that when I kill him off, I should have a handful of characters to replace him!."

I guess my point here is, I enjoyed this book and all its zombie methodology, however I felt like the heart of the story was missing. The characters basically just bounce around from place to place avoiding zombies. They don't seem to have much direction until near the end and the characters are so emotionally detached from the reader that it is hard to feel much. Of course you will want them to survive, but your heart won't pound in anticipation of their fate.

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