Zombie Book Review: Plaguedon September 3, 2013 at 12:00 am
Most zombie stories focus on the initial stages of the outbreak, when the chaos is at it’s maximum and society is crumbling around the ears of the intrepid protagonists, trying – and often failing – to survive. Naturally, fans of the genre love this. I know I’ve got a soft spot for seeing how the complex mechanisms of our modern world can come crashing down, and how they can brings with them all the supporting systems and subsystems. It’s facinating.
On the other hand, it’s been done. A lot.
That’s why it’s nice to see a zombie novel tackle things a little bit differently. A zombie novel like Plagued: The Midamerican Zombie Half-Breed Experiment, for instance. Instead of telling the story of the initial zombie outbreak and the crazy panic that follows, we get to see how things ended up after the bloodshed. We get to experience day-to-day life for survivors after the zombie war had been fought and won. Well, mostly won, anyway.
The zombies were pushed out of civilized areas, but there are still vast swathes of the country that are, for all intents and purposes, zombie controlled. People in the safe areas enjoy relatively normal lives. They fear the wild lands, but don’t need really need to think about it. In fact, many of the luxuries they have come thanks to zombie slave labor.
And where, you ask, does that zombie slave labor come from? Well the fringes of society of course. There are trading camps setup on the periphery of zombie-occupied zones, where trappers go out into the bush and come back with zombie prisoners. The zombies are then fed, and have their “zombie gland” (the thing that makes their bite infectious) removed. After that, it’s off to the stockyard where dealers can peddle them to anyone interested. It makes for a very creepy and very effective bit of role reversal in the zombie genre.
Into this crazy world lands Tom, a pampered son of a powerful Senator who is trying to find his sister, who was infected and lost on his watch when he was a child. The first half of the book is a sort of fish-out-of-water tale, with Tom going around the zombie slave camps and getting a sense of how the world works. This is where Tom meets the titular “half-breed” zombie. I won’t spoil how this works, but suffice it to say, it adds a considerable amount of depth to the story, and hints at a huge back story that we’re not privy to.
And then, the inevitable happens. An outbreak.
Tom manages to make it out of the camp with a handful of others, and they slowly make their way cross country to a place where they can call for rescue. Among the other survivors are the half-breed and her owner.
Plagued is very different from the zombie stories I’m used to reading. A lot of the hallmarks are there, but because the story is set long after the initial outbreak, the characters all have drastically different perspectives, and it’s absolutely fascinating to see how the author imagines that society has adapted.