The Living Dead by George A. Romero and Daniel Kraus

Called it November 2020
Recommended for serious fans only
 ★     ★     ★    

Results of a 51% read:

It’s long. Really, really long, which is an interesting genre choice. As much as I go on about the value of zombie fiction, there’s a limit to what can be drawn from it, and a limit to tolerance for immersion in the world where undead function. So, a serious strike against the book for no other reason than length, because sometimes more is just inefficient. Though I feel like that sounds petty, the reality is that we live in a busy world with many things competing for attention, and even if you are the almighty best at writing zombie fiction, a book that is 656 pages is going to turn off not only potential cross-genre readers, but fans with competing interests like jobs, family and walking the dogs.

The story is multi-threaded, and builds slowly enough for any fan. One thread follows a teenage girl who lives in a multicultural trailer park with her younger brother and her dad, while her mom is away in prison for drugs. One thread follows an African-American tv producer in Chicago, having second thoughts about his career. Another follows an aging Latino medical examiner and his younger assistant in Los Angeles. In yet another thread, a Japanese-American officer of a U.S. Navy ship stars to suspect something is going wrong. These are what I recall of the primary threads, and any one of them would be very rich. Romero gives each a fairly full arc before moving onto the next, which is somewhat satisfying. Because there is such a wide variety of settings, we get to see a wide variety of reactions to the rise of the undead, and the experience of adjusting to it, and then the survival skills, which will appeal to many fans.

However, Romero eventually does something different here–I think–which is (view spoiler) On the ship, our very likable protagonist finds himself the victim of a semi-internment camp situation, lead by

****************************spoilers below******************************************

However, Romero eventually does something different here–I think–which is give some of the undead power to think, while others act more like ants with a hive mind. On the ship, our very likable protagonist finds himself the victim of a semi-internment camp situation, lead by and I started to feel very uncomfortable with the story. This was resistance, to be sure; but a very different kind. Likewise, over in Chicago, when the tv producer became undead and continued to do his job.  and I suspect that this played a small role in losing my momentum in the tale. No longer was it simple survival against the odds, or simple humans working out humanity. In fact, I couldn’t work out where Romero was going with the plotting. Were zombies human too? Or hive minds with especially smart ones?  I wasn’t sure I liked the developments.

**************************end spoilers*********************************************

What really interrupted my momentum–and I’m not accusing, just analyzing–were the Black Lives Matter protests, which turned to riots in many cities. I was deeper into the story at this point, and as more people were undead, our L.A. characters were hiding out from both rioters and zombies, and parts of L.A. were burning around them. Add to this my own experiences in the Rodney King riots in L.A. in the 90s, and I reached my own personal bug-out point.

Add these things together: the length, the story direction, my PTSD, and it’s unlikely I’ll read another zombie book until COVID-19 pandemic is over. My apologies to both Romero and to NetGalley, as parts of it are, without doubt, exemplary for genre. But I would highly recommend considering reworking it for length, because at this point, it will be nothing more than a niche book.


Many thanks to NetGalley and Macmillan-Tor/Forge for an arc of this book. 

About thebookgator

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

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