Z.N.A. was a strange reading experience, much like reading two books at the same time. It starts as a rather classic Zombie Survival story… but around the middle of the book the whole thing unexpectedly turns into some kind of Heroes (the TV Show) kind of thing.
I don’t really have anything against mash ups but in my opinion a good mash up should mix two genres to the point where you get a third one that’s unique.
Z.N.A. unfortunately does not do a very good job at mixing and we rather end up with 2 very different stories patched next to each other that barely have anything in common.
So… does 2 books for the price of one makes it a better deal?
Let’s find out…
As mentioned earlier, the first half of the book essentially follows the codes of a classic zombie apocalypse tale – the shit hits the fan and we get to see how unprepared people deal with it. Disbelief, panic, hole up, scavenge, fight and ultimately find refuge in a remote location. There is no major breakthrough in terms of storytelling or writing but it’s efficient, scary and sometimes oppressive and this is the part that I enjoyed the most.
Although this story is about a group of survivors the first thirty pages or so are focused on the main character. An interesting choice but the author did not really take this as an opportunity to share some insights on this character’s past or motives. In the end we get to know very little about him and it’s even worse with the secondary characters that get introduced in a matter of a few pages. In a survivalist story, I think it’s essential to care about the characters – will they live, get injured, depressed or rise to the challenge? To find an interest in their fate we need to know a minimum of who they are and where they come from. Unfortunately very little efforts are made in Z.N.A. to give us this information and in the end I found myself not caring much about what was happening to these people. This was particularly frustrating with one character with suicidal tendencies that had to survive the apocalypse to find a new will to live – I would have liked to know why and how she got to that point – Alas! I’ll have to suck it from my thumb.
Around the halfway point of the story, our group is finally assembled and that’s when they discover that the virus who decimated the planet also gave them supernatural abilities (no major spoiler here, it’s mentioned upfront on the author’s blog). I was comparing this twist to “heroes” because we are definitely not in a super-hero “x-men” scenario but rather a situation where a regular guy finds himself one day with the ability to cast a force field or read minds.
Again, this book is a mash up – if you don’t like this kind of stuff nobody is forcing you to read it – I like zombies and I like super powers so until then I was still fine with the concept and told myself it could lead to interesting situations. Unfortunately, it didn’t.
As soon as our group finds out they have new powers the zombies become more of a secondary threat because our survivors find themselves a new enemy in the shape of an evil mastermind that happens to be at the origin of the apocalypse…
At that moment I really told myself that this book should not have been called Z.N.A. but rather WTF?! But I kept on reading nonetheless and I was rewarded to do so because the story still had some interesting ideas in shop. Unfortunately despite the action, twists and turns from that moment on the book was a lost cause to me and I no longer cared about the plot.
Is Z.N.A. a bad story? Certainly not but I honestly think the author tried to put too many ingredients in the recipe and it ended up being way too heavy because of that.
An outstanding first review from Yatkuu! Thanks for taking the time to do this!
My pleasure Dave – thanks for inviting me to do this, it was a first for me and I really enjoyed it.
I just wanted to add that even though I may seem a bit harsh on some aspects of the book I have a lot of respect for the author, I was only trying to be honest about how I felt about the story.
Being able to write a novel is something I have always dreamed of and dreaming of it is as far as it goes right now for me so I really look up to anyone able to do it.
Good review Yatkuu.
This ZNA series was a great start to Matt’s writing career. I think this is why BETA readers will become a critical part of every Indie writers project.