Getting a unique take on the zombie apocalypse is no easy task, especially with the glut of zombie movies, books, comics, games, and blogs. Somehow, William Todd Rose manages to break through the noise to create a truly unique tale of the zombie apocalypse. The 7 Habits of Highly Infected People is, without question, the best zombie book I’ve read in a long, long time.
7 Habits is broken into two different, yet very interconnected stories. One is set in vaguely the present, with a first person narration courtesy of Bosley Coughlin, a drugged out loser who just so happens to be able to travel through time by jumping into other people’s minds. The other half of the story is set in the future, as a survivor – a young girl named Ocean – of the zombie apocalypse is scraping by, living off the occasional fly or rat, and drinking the condensation off car windows and the like. The world is destroyed, almost utterly. What few survivors remain are starving and living in abject misery, simply waiting out the hours until their death.
Quite the setup, no?
It’s a pretty crazy story, but it’s rooted in strong, richly defined characters. Bosley Coughlin isn’t a character I would normally identify with in any way, but Rose’s writing is so solid that I really feel like I’ve grown to know this man through the course of the book. Ocean is a little less defined, but that appears to be by design. We get half of the novel straight from Bosley’s mouth – literally, he’s being interviewed/interrogated. Ocean’s chapters are told in the third person, so we don’t quite get that same level of knowingness from her. But that’s okay, because Ocean is important more for what she represents – youth, survival, innocence, adaptation – than for the delicate underpinnings of her character.
Ocean’s chapters offer a much more conventional narrative. It’s a story of survival in the bleak zombie apocalypse, and on it’s own it’s quite good. But the heart of 7 Habits is with Bosley. As he slowly unwinds his tale – with numerous sidelines and tangents – we get a much better sense of how the world works. Bosley, you see, managed to unlock himself from space and time while taking some pretty hardcore drugs.
One of the cooler aspects of reading 7 Habits was trying to figure out whether Bosley was a reliable narrator or not. His story was absolutely crazy, and his personal background made me not want to trust him. The author also makes him scattered and constantly having his narrative go down unrelated rabbit holes. Is he imagining Ocean and the zombie apocalypse, or has he truly become unrooted in time?
This begs the further question, can he do anything about it? I’m certainly not going to ruin anything for you, but learning what Bosley does with his information about the future was incredibly interesting. It’s sort of a “travel back in time and kill Hitler” story for zombie lovers.
If I had any complaints about 7 Habits, it’s that parts of the story were fairly predictable. Again, I’m not going to spoil anything here, but there were a couple reveals I spotted miles away. Thankfully, I enjoyed the book more for the ride than the destination, so figuring out a couple plot points didn’t impact my enjoyment of the novel one iota.
If you’re looking for an unconventional zombie book that you’ll have a hard time putting down, look no further than The 7 Habits of Highly Infected People.
Oh that sounds really cool!!
It really is. I’d highly recommend it.
I’m more than willing to trust you on this one but I’m a tough crowd when it comes to time travel stories… very often I find that such stories start falling apart when you start thinking about the sequences of events, causes Vs consequences.. very tricky stuff to write.
Oh yeah, I feel the same way. Those tend to come up in more technical, sci-fi style stories. This is more of a Slaughterhouse Five kind of deal.
Ah I see they have two different covers
Weird. I wonder why.
Thanks for the great review! The version you guys have linked up top is the original self-published version. If you click the other paperback version on Amazon you get the new Permuted version. Our version is about 20,000 words longer than the original.
Ah, I wasn’t aware of the difference. I updated the link to go to the current release.