One of the best things about searching for people to read and give feedback on Bite No.1: The Old Man at the End of the World has been meeting the wonderful, eclectic mix of personalities who are ‘into’ zombies.
Last month, I was lucky enough to stumble across a completely intriguing article about a Professor of English and Modern Languages at Mansfield University, Pennsylvania who prescribes an indie author’s work as required reading in his class.
Not so strange, you might be thinking.
Yes, the day has finally come – zompoc books have made the University reading list!
Both novels are written by South Californian author Kevin David Anderson and they are truly through-and-through zombie stories. With a comedic twist. In Night of the Living Trekkies, fans at a Star Trek convention become infected with a virus that transforms them into flesh-devouring undead. Night of the ZomBEES tells the tale of a town where residents are celebrating the cause of their prosperity (the honey bee) by dressing in black-and-yellow costumes before a zombie virus is released (by none other than a swarm of mutant bees).
A far cry from Tess of the D’Urbervilles. So, you ask, what’s the relevance?
Mason emphasises that, at the heart of all good zombie apocalypse books, exists a story about survival – surviving an initial viral outbreak, surviving an altered reality, surviving the drastic change from something you know through to something totally unknown. Ultimately, Mason uses these light-hearted texts as a metaphor for students as they transition from high school to college and beyond.
So, ‘hear hear’ to the zombie metaphor and to passionate champions of the genre, like Professor Dan Mason who can see past the undead to the message beyond.
And so, without further ado: Professor Dan Mason’s review of Bite No.1: The Old Man at the End of the World…
Dan Mason’s review of BITE NO.1: THE OLD MAN AT THE END OF THE WORLD by @AKSilversmith #ZombieFiction #FreeBooks #BritishHumor
The problem with books about the undead is that there aren’t enough stories to go around. Fans loved Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, so they pay homage by writing their own stories that recapitulate his story about a group of people under siege by the living dead. They miss Romero’s real story which is about the people in the house in a scary, life-threatening situation. Being fans, they believe zeal is enough to make a story good.
There are good stories about the undead, but the undead are incidental to the story. Jonathan Maberry’s Joe Ledger stories are about a Bond / Rambo cross. In Patient Zero, Maberry tells Ledger’s story by throwing medically created zombies at him. Patient Zero is a great tale because Maberry had a story to tell and told it well.
David Moody went a different route. He had a different story to tell in Autumn. Instead of the undead spreading, Moody kills off nearly the entire human race on the first page of his book. The survivors are stunned and confused and barely beginning to deal with the event when the seven billion dead people begin to reanimate. Moody’s protagonists have to deal with each other while learning about slowly evolving zombies. Another good story told well.
Joe McKinney tells the story of a police officer on duty during the first night of a zombie apocalypse. Officer Eddie Hudson has to find his way across a devastated San Antonio to rescue his family. McKinney had an interesting story to tell and also told it well.
As I noted, there are lots of good stories, but the undead are incidental to the stories. Alfred Hitchcock called such phenomena MacGuffins. They are the reason for the story, but they’re not the story.
Now another author has entered the scene. AK Silversmith has her own story to tell. She asked herself, “What would happen if an 87-year-old proper Englishman, a giant potato-smuggling Scotsman and a young English drug dealing vegan were to team up accidentally to survive a spreading undead nightmare?”
The Old Man at the End of the World is a funny story told well. Silversmith has a clear voice and a good grasp of the absurd. Each of her characters has his own strengths and weaknesses. Her writing allows the reader to experience the thrill of being trapped by the undead while balancing on the cusp of laughter. It remains to be seen how Gerald, Ham and Finnbar Phipps, who knows a lot about drugs and the undead but not much else, will mesh in the long run, but Bite No.1 has enough story to make me willing to try the next in the series.
This review will be published in the Sun-Gazette in April 2017.
BITE NO.1: THE OLD MAN AT THE END OF THE WORLD IS NOW FREE ON AMAZON!