Book Review: The Rising By Brian Keene

I broke. Two years have I had the sequel City of the Dead and not been able to get hold of a second hand copy of this – the first in his much-lauded zombie duology. So, does it stand up to the hype? Does it set down many of the tropes seen in zombie literature of the last ten years? Most of all, is it is amazing as most of the reviews make out? Well…

This is the story of a zombie apocalypse – really, did you expect anything else? But it is slightly different from what you are used to. The undead are not rising up as a result of disease, kemmercals in our water or because Jesus had his feelings hurt because people of the same gender dared to fall in love and teenagers broke the vows they made at their Chastity Ball. No, this is a result of some ancient aliens who were cast into another dimension being able to slip through and occupy the bodies of the recently deceased. A bite, a scratch is just about enough to kill the person and allow the alien to occupy the space where their soul once was.

The story follows several main characters. A man in a second marriage whose ex-wife moved to the opposite side of the country who gets a terrified phonecall from his son, a scientist who worked at the facility where the first zombie/alien creature came through to occupy the body of a goldfish, and a junkie; it is the story of how they eventually find each other and attempt to escape the zombie hoards.

It is well written – mostly and it has all the hallmarks of a first novel. It flows quite well and the characters are just so-so. We all know we rarely read books like this for the characters. But do the zombies themselves stand up? The animal zombies I found worked… mostly. At times it was a little too much, a little too silly but overall I got used to it. I did have a real problem here with the “intelligent zombie”. Though it is explained well and the reason behind it unusual (and certainly original) I tried really hard to accept it, to run with it, but intelligent talking zombies still do not work for me, sorry! Nevertheless, this was otherwise a fine book with some tense moments, some great ideas. It is well-paced, well-written and I noticed some Good Reads reviews complaining about typos. This is the author’s preferred version so most of these have been removed from this edition. I also understand that the plot is far more linear and hops around less. It flows seamlessly.

This has its plus points, but I am not overly excited about it. I am going straight on to the second book City of the Dead and will give a more in-depth analysis of the duology after completion.

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