Book Review: The Gathering Dead

How do you like your undead? Do you like them fast or slow? A little smarter than common or dumb as a door knob? Most people aren’t biased towards a side as long as it’s a good story but it’s always a fun topic of conversation. Personally I have never really leaned too far towards a side but lately that has changed a bit as I have become interested in the idea that mixes both types of undead. A style that has the fresh undead retaining a small degree of human smarts and movement that quickly degrades into the shambling moaners.  I like this style in that it gives you some variety within a book and it helps answer how the undead are capable of overrunning large populations so fast. Besides, a dusty old shambler whose been wandering around in a hallway tripping over trashcans shouldn’t have the same bio-mechanics as the newly reborn.

The reason I bring this up is because these are the types of Zombies found in The Gathering Dead, so right away I was intrigued and looking forward to seeing how author Stephen Knight would use them.

The Gathering Dead

The Gathering Dead is nonstop action military thriller featuring a squad on a rescue mission in New York. Hearing that many will immediately compare it to Craig DiLouie’s post-apocalyptic thriller Tooth and Nail since both have military units in New York City as an outbreak happens. This is understandable but the fact is New York City is the ideal setting for an outbreak and we certainly haven’t seen the last story set there. With that in mind it’s important to point out that both books have their own tales along with the initial similarities so I think it’s inaccurate to judge them against each other since never once did I feel like I was reading the same book.

The Gathering Dead runs at a neck breaking pace over the span of just a few days, and Stephen Knight shines best at visually projecting the story to the reader giving you a front row seat to the action . As I was sitting there reading this I was able to see everything the book intended me to see with absolutely no trouble whatsoever being fully immersed. From swarms of undead raining out of windows going after humans to masses crushing themselves trying to make it up stairwells the action is brought to you vividly.

Moving from one chapter to another I felt like the book improved as it progressed constantly building pressure filled tension since we are constantly reminded that in the background of the entire story are masses of undead that will never stop reaching for the living.

With such a strong military theme to the story I was pleasantly surprised to see depth and personality with the imperfect military personnel. Not everyone was a cold Rambo, as emotions ran high within the unit. I cared when some died throughout the story. No character favorites of the author were protected, as each and every character you see is up for grabs for the undead while as they are making their way to their rescue point. Anything can happen to anyone.

Not everyone in this book is military, which gives you a bit of a breather while helping the common civilian identify with the survivors. We quickly find the military team protecting a few scientists, and a man named Earl who is protecting his family, who at times show more steady resolve than the Special Forces. The book gains credibility here, as, thankfully, he is just a strong man and you won’t find yourself rolling your eyes since he never suddenly turns into a small arms expert.

What I didn’t like about The Gather Dead was I felt like there was far too much foreshadowing in the first half of the book and I felt like it gave away a few surprises early on. That is by no means to say that the book was predictable, far from it, it’s just odd that such strong foreshadowing was used.  I think I was so frustrated with this aspect since a few paragraphs and a dozen or so sentences take care of this problem rather easily.  This also ties into my note that I felt like this book got stronger as it went on since this problem never showed itself again.

The Gathering Dead should be assigned reading for everyone who loves a good zombie tale and I predict a late blooming surge in popularity at some point.

B

Following The Gathering Dead Stephen Knight also wrote a 100 page Novella Left with the Dead that follows a member of the rescue team who was left behind. Be sure to check out Knight’s blog, which offers some nice insights into the world of self-publication.

The gathering dead is published by Severed Press.

34 Comments

Dave

I’ve heard of the “new zombie = more capable” thing before. It sounds interesting and could certainly be done well.

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zombiemutts

In this particular case it addresses muscle memory and he uses soldiers to express it. Due to the relentless training of soldiers it made sense and IMO it worked out well. Me being a cubicle monkey I guess that means I would rise again and end up pounding my fists against a toilet bowl which would suck.

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Dave

I know the feeling. As a zombie, I’d probably be better at spreadsheets than other zombies, but that’s not much of an advantage.

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Dave

I know the author probably doesn’t have a whole lot of say in these matters, but I really dig the cover art on this book. It’s fantastic.

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zombiemutts

I love minimalist design’s like this. WWZ, The Original DBD cover and this are among my favorites. I saw a copy of WWZ in the grocery store yesterday and by sadly this time next year it will be replaced by some overdone action shot of Brad Pitt.

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Dave

God I hate that. To be honest, I’m not a fan of most of the covers on zombie books. They’re just overdone and I’m always self-conscious when I buy them. They just look trashy. This, on the other hand, is both cool and creepy. Nicely done, graphic artist responsible.

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Dave

That’s the same cover I’ve got. I like it more than the current one, but I’d like something more muted and abstract a hell of a lot more.

Jared Rackler

Thank you very much for the comments on the cover art. The Gathering Dead does hold a special place in my heart, being my first zombie cover!

zombiemutts

Is it really? Wow you certainly hit big with it…and looks like you did the follow up novella Left With the Dead as well which is amazing!

Dave

@Jared – Wow that GA for this book found my humble blog? That’s fantastic. I really am quite impressed with your layout here. It’s simple, evocative, and scary. Very nicely done stuff.

Morgan

I have not heard of this book, but definitely going to check it out! I tend to lose interest in books that foreshadow a lot and don’t pick up much speed until you get closer to the end, but I feel like the story and the character development would definitely overshadow the flaws to the book.

Thanks for the great review! Definitely going to go check it out!

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zombiemutts

Thank you!

Yeah and I really want to stress it’s a flaw that goes away pretty fast and won’t be an issue as you go on. Please let me know what you think when you’re done and I bet you will enjoy it!

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Calicade

So I’ve managed to get my writing creativity back! Its been 2 years from.
“DERP DERP DERP” now I’m back to normal with in my head.. I plan on writing.. But I have so many ideas I don’t know which one to go with first.

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zombiemutts

Any idea you have…no matter how disjointed or incomplete write it down asap. You can re-address it or work on it later but it’s impossible to remember later if you didn’t write it down.

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Dave

This is damn good advice. I can’t tell you how many ideas have drifted away from me because I was too stupid to grab a pen and paper.

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Calicade

I remember all my ideas, its just that its hard to pick which one.. Or developing the idea to its fullest.

Calicade

I like to go about though.. Finding out what writers do in the process.. how they work. I haven’t found anything out yet, but I can only assume the most appropriate.

Calicade

OH MY A THIRD POST RIGHT AFTER THE OTHER TWO!? BLASPHEMY!
Well not really.. I just finished something up, a poem of sorts, I need some one to read it for me.

Dave

Check out NaNoWriMo if you’re interested in learning what goes into writing. They have a ton of resources on outlining, brainstorming, character and plot development, and every other damn thing.

For my perspective – and I’m primarily an essayist who would like to try his hand at a novel – outlining is crucial. Brainstorm and get an idea of plot, characters, and setting. Then start building from there. The more you invest into pre-writing, the easier writing is going to be.

zombiemutts

“I like to go about though.. Finding out what writers do in the process.. how they work. I haven’t found anything out yet, but I can only assume the most appropriate.”

wat?

I’ll review whatever you need and offer feedback if you’d like. Just remember part of critical reviews is giving constructive criticism so don’t get offended at any well meaning negative comments I may have. Which also means anything positive is honest.

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Calicade

Oh I take everything with a humble heart! I’ve been in multiples of groups that I’ve been critiqued.
By assume the most appropriate means I’m assuming that most writers use the process of brain storming and so on.
Any way I can send it to you?

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Dave

FWIW – Mutts gave me some excellent feedback on the items I sent him to review, so I’d definitely recommend him as a resource.

Stephen Knight

Glad you liked it, and I hope you like Left With The Dead just as much. McDaniels and Gartrell will be back in The Rising Horde, which is the full-on sequel to the first book…once I finish writing it, that is.

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Dave

Thank you for coming by and saying hi, Stephen. It’s so cool when the people responsible for the stuff we review actually see our words!

Keep churning out the good stuff, and we’ll keep reading!

Stephen Knight

I’m especially fond of this quote from the review:

“…I predict a late blooming surge in popularity at some point.”

Here’s hoping buyers–and maybe even God–are listening! 😀

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zombiemutts

Here is why I said that

I rarely see this book mentioned on zombie forums or zombie blogs but when I do see it mentioned people like it and speak highly of it. So you have a guy mad on amazon for military terminology slamming the book but then you have folks who really like the book who are among like minded fans. At some point that should have an effect.

Especially when 2012 will have so much apocolypse interest.

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