At first blush, Gomers is a pretty strange name for a zombie survival book, but it is explained in the context of the book in what I think is a fairly clever way. Like many zombie stories, characters are hesitant to refer to the undead as zombies. In this case, several characters discuss the best name to use, discounting several in the process. They finally settle on gomers, which we’re told is an acronym used by doctors, meaning: Get Out of My Emergency Room. Now, I’d never heard the term myself, but some quick Googling showed me that it is, indeed, a fairly commonly used word.
I understand that “not using the zed word” is a trope, although it’s not one I think should be used all the time. That said, if you are going to stick to the trope, it’s nice to come up with a term that isn’t boring and derivative (I’m getting awful tired of seeing “walkers” all over the place these days. Gomers does that.
Questions about the title aside, how does Gomers work as a zombie survival story? Well, that’s a little more complicated of a question to answer. While I liked the book well enough, I found that the actual structure left a lot to be desired. Let’s address that before we discuss anything further.
Gomers is organized into a traditional three act structure, which is just fine. It has a couple disparate groups of characters who come together later in the narrative. Again, no problem here. The problem comes with how these characters are introduced.
The first act of the book focuses on two characters, both in way over their heads, who I assumed were going to be the protagonists. They eventually run into a third character, a combat veteran who could act as a mentor. In the book’s second act, we abandon these characters completely to focus on an entirely new group of people, with the timeline jumping back to the beginning of the outbreak. In the third act, the two groups come together, but the two characters from act one are largely relegated to supporting roles in favor of the newer characters.
This made keeping track of the story’s timeline, and identifying with characters much more difficult than it needed to be. Had the author simply mixed in the two perspectives, perhaps by alternating chapters, it would have been a much easier and more enjoyable read. As it stands, the structure of the book is its biggest obstacle.
Structure aside, the characters and story work fairly well. The characters are largely achetypical: the grizzled veteran, the studious nerd, the burnout video game nut, and the touch chick. Each of these is imbued with enough personality to make them interesting, although the veteran and tough chick characters lack the weaknesses that would help make them more sympathetic.
The story is typical enough: people survive the initial zombie outbreak and eventually settle into their new lives, even thriving in the face of the new challenges. Soon, they find that the living are far more dangerous than the dead.
I didn’t dislike Gomers. It’s an entertaining read with some great action beats, but the story’s structure and the over-reliance on narrative tropes makes it hard to recommend. I really hope the author does a second edition of the book to address some of these critiques, because it’s a solid story otherwise.