When I received the pitch for Flesh Without Soul, I was intrigued by the writer saying that it was a short book that wasn’t part of a series. Having just finished a rather lengthy series of books, I was definitely in the mood for something I could finish in a few days. I’m also tiring of the trend of everything having to be a series. Now, I understand how much work goes into creating a work of fiction, but the idea that every good idea needs to be a trilogy or a saga irritates me.
But enough about my personal bugaboos. what about Flesh Without Soul? Well, to be honest I just couldn’t get into it. I appreciate what the writer was trying to do by creating thus huge, sprawling story in such a small space, but I ended up feeling like it was just a little too truncated. I didn’t feel like I got the opportunity to know any of the characters or learn how things in the world of Flesh Without Soul worked.
The story centers around a family, with Michael being the catalyst for the entire story, since he’s the one who engineered and released the zombie pandemic into the world. Michael has two sisters, Kara and Jane. Kara lives in the same area as him, operating a small pizza place, while Jane is a high ranking officer in the military, which will come into play soon enough.
Shortly after releasing his contagion, Michael has his sister kidnapped and injects her with the antidote. You see, he doesn’t want to kill the whole world, just 99.999% percent of it. He wants to use his followers – who are also the people who are releasing the outbreak throughout the world – to repopulate once everything settles down. Oh, and when they do repopulate, they’ll be indoctrinating their future children with the belief that Michael is God, or at least a God. So he’ll have that going for him.
At any rate, Kara is given the antidote, and she tries to escape to reach her sister Jane, who is commanding the military’s resistance operations. That is, well, it’s a pretty solid setup. Michael and Jane are effective foils, with Kara as a sort of wildcard capable of upsetting the balance one way or another. I’d say this is the biggest strengths of the book.
The trouble is that things happen far too quickly for anything to feel like it has any real weight. We don’t really get a chance to know most of the characters outside of a single defining trait and their primary motivation. Huge battles and set-pieces take place, but in such a compressed time period we don’t get a chance to appreciate the scale. And that’s a damn shame.
About two-thirds of the way through, Flesh Without Soul takes a huge turn, and the story jumps several years into the future. I won’t say anything about what happens for fear of spoilers, but it is one of the more clever choices the book makes. Ultimately, that leads to an ending that I found rather cynical, although others may like it if, for no other reason, than for it’s courage to go against conviction.
Flesh Without Soul had a lot of promise, but it tried to do too much in too little time, draining the whole thing of weight.