Positive by David Wellington. Not so much.


Read September 2015
Recommended for fans of YA and zombies. And flat story-telling
 ★    ★   

See Finn and his parents. See Finn leave New York. See Finn fight off a scary woman. See Finn meet a man traveling with young girls.  See Finn fight off scary man. See Finn fail to develop worldliness. See Finn act like dumb Knight in Shiny Armor. See Finn get beat forty different times. See carol wish she could slap some sense into Finn.

Serves me right, you say. What am I doing reading zombie books and expecting great literature? Because zombies are Other, but they were people, and it is fascinating to see how authors and their characters cope with survival, identity, and fear. If you don’t think there haven’t been some great zombie literature books, then you need to read farther into the genre.

I thought Wellington would be a good novelist, as I had recently encountered his short stories in the triptych The End is Nigh/Come. I thought his stories interesting; fun, fast, and with a concept that strikes right to the heart of the Other/Us concept–people who have been exposed to zombies are put into internment camps until time runs out on the virus-exposure limits (and if that doesn’t just put you in mind of USA’s Japanese internment camps and Guantanamo Bay, then you should go look up allegory).

The plot is broken up into three major sections. There’s a brief introduction to Finn and his life in New York City, twenty years after the zombie apocalypse. He characterizes people into “first generation” that lived through the massive upheaval and everyone born after. After leaving NYC, he is rescued by a scavenger and his carload of young girls. This is the most zombie-centered section of the book, and feels a great deal like a Mad Max survivalist scenario. After escaping his rescuer, the group drives to Ohio, to the government camp. Then it is internment camp time, followed by an escape and a shot at a new life. Really, it isn’t about the zombies as much a young person’s coming-of-age in three parts. And I really think this young person needs a solid slap upside the head because he seems immune to the effects of experience.

Although I didn’t much care for Finn–he never really matured or recognized any kind of subtlety of thought–I did enjoy the personalities of the side characters. Grizzled mad Kate, faithful Ike, and Kylie, the troubled young woman, all hailed from central casting, but at least I found their realism a refreshing contrast to Finn’s persistent ignorance. Surprisingly, I rather appreciated the sociopathic side characters as well, although the fact that they were there and Finn continued to be surprised by them was irritating.

The combination of Finn’s character and the dull, point-by-point writing is what ended my interest in the story. It wasn’t bad so much as utterly boring. I literally was forcing myself to pick up the book and read. It was a challenge to figure out why I didn’t like it, because on the whole, Wellington is far more competent than many zombie-story writers (Rhiannon Frater, I’m looking at you). I believe it partly narrows down to the plodding description, Finn’s lack of introspection and a storytelling style that tends towards describing as if one is telling someone else about a movie they watched last week. It tends to follow a formula: Finn sees something. Someone explains to Finn what he is seeing. Finn then re-observes the scene with this knowledge. We move on to something else Finn doesn’t understand.

Behind the spoiler, I’m going to put some examples of the writing. They really aren’t spoilerific, but I’m avoiding the wall ‘o text, because the proof is in the puddin.

Overall, I found it a disappointing entry into the zombie oeuvre (oh yes; I said that). Good thing The Walking Dead returns soon, so I can get my fix through television and go back to reading serious books.

“She didn’t tell me to leave. She didn’t order me off the tank and back to the tiny little room in the concrete building. As quickly as it had come, the emotion in her fled again and she shut down once more. So I sat down next to her, because I didn’t have anywhere else to go, either. Ohio seemed very far away.

Together we sat and watched the looters as their party raged into the night. From up there they didn’t seem so bad. By that time some of them had gotten drunk enough to pass out in their cars or just flat out on the asphalt. Others were singing a song together, wrapping their arms around each other. One guy was bent over the hood of his car, painting intricate flames with a tiny brush. I doubted he could even see what he was doing–the only light came from the oil drum fires, and that was nearly as bad as the moonlight–but he’d been at it for hours.

“They love those cars,” I said, just to hear myself talk.
“The have to. A looter on foot, out in the wilderness, is just zombie food. And the cars are all twenty years old, so they need constant repairs and attention.”

I hadn’t considered the fact that nobody in the world had built a new car in twenty years. The looters’ cars gleamed in the firelight as if they’d just been washed and detailed. The chrome on their bumpers was immaculate, unblemished by dings or scratches.

By way of contrast, the motorcycles parked to  one side of the lot were covered in dust and grease, and they lacked the flowing lines and careful craftsmanship of the cars.”

About thebookgator

avid reader and Goodreads reviewer looking for a home.
This entry was posted in Apocalypse & dystopia, Book reviews, young adult and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Positive by David Wellington. Not so much.

  1. Steph says:

    What a shame. I’m ready for some good zombie fiction…and yes it exists. There is Feed by Mira Grant. There is World War Z, and there is The Girl With All the Gifts. SO, I say it is right to hope…

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