“I was a farmer and the gun was my scythe. I was a swordsman, a plowman, a reaper. I was death final, and silence supreme. But they still came.”
Full disclosure: LZR 1143 Evolution by Bryan James is the sequel to one of my all time favorite zombie books, LZR 1143 Infection, so a lot of guilt laden bias had to be snuffed out for me reading this. When I finally got my copy of the sequel that I have been eagerly awaiting, it was a great undead day for me. However it soon dawned on me that no matter what, the odds were that I would be let down by the sequel due to my enthusiasm, so with that in mind let’s see how it went.
To catch up from from book one, Infection begins with action movie hero Mike McKnight (intentionally obnoxious movie star name) waking up in bed while imprisoned at an insane asylum. Mike had been found guilty but ruled insane for the brutal murder of his wife which is a crime he doesn’t even remember. Upon waking up feeling odd from what seems to be the withdrawal from his daily anti-psychotics cocktails, Mike begins to do his daily wandering of his asylum’s interior. While shuffling around and finding an empty yet bloody nurses’ station housing a 3 day old stale sandwich and running into a co-inmate who is rocking back & forth singing the A-Team theme song, Mike realizes something may be amiss. You guessed it, The Zombie Apocalypse had started.
Evolution picks up right where Infection left us as Mike again wakes up in a bed confused at this surroundings. I loved this subtle inside joke to the fans of the first book as both books obviously briefly begin the same. Well placed humor is a staple of these books and something Bryan James uses correctly then moves on. Some authors try very hard to be funny and its almost as if they are pausing while the crowd laughs as they put blatant emphasis on the joke. The subtle jokes never derail the story line and in the LZR series the jokes are sarcastic and self deprecating which just fits Mike McKnight’s personality. In real life I am guessing Bryan James is a bit of a Curb Your Enthusiasm fan.
Although Mike is the main focal point, as the story unravels from his point of view, we are introduced to other characters through the book but never to the point of confusion or pointlessness. Each character, regardless of how long they stay in the book, are well defined, interesting, and impactful as they always serve a purpose for advancing the story.
As the book moves on we begin to start understanding more about the LZR 1143 virus and its potential cure, how it started, who is responsible for its outbreak and how the government made the outbreak worse through conspiracies or outright failures. But fear not, as no lectures on government ineptitude take place.
One issue Evolution – and every other sequel for a apocalypse book – struggles with is that we don’t get to enjoy the fascinating journey as the outbreak begins. In some form or another, that can be one of the most interesting parts of this genres. Reactions to dealing with zombies for the first time and defenses being run over rarely cease to entertain. Bryan filled this obvious void as Evolution takes you far beyond the normal zombie tale, showing you a complete look at the apocalypse as survivors of the outbreak are showing a complete social and psychological breakdown leaving you to wonder whether zombies or the humans are the biggest threat to complete extinction.
From the start to finish the, ever-present sense of complete loss created such a pall of depression over me that I seriously thought about taking a break from these type of books for a few months. But, as is the style of these books, spirits were lifted a bit by making me laugh at someone stepping on a unknown body part inside a grocery store. I guess you’ll just have to read it for that to make sense.
Obviously my initial worries about disappointment were a waste as Evolution easily ranks amongst the best zombie books of 2011. LZR 1143 Evolution is a brilliantly complete zombie yarn filled with never ending action that thrives on a versatile story line guaranteed to leave you satisfied.
Grade: A –
*At this time Bryan James does not have a publisher as he is part of a growing number of authors who chose independence through the E-Book market. You can check out his blog here.