Kill Town, USA is a book that, with another couple drafts, could probably be a pretty compelling read. Unfortunately, the book is still pretty raw, and at eight-five pages, doesn’t give you a lot to sink your teeth into. I love the idea of a novella to explore interesting ideas in the short form, but sometimes it’s not always the best fit for a story, and I think that’s the case here.
The trouble starts in Kill Town, USA when some sort of toxin in meat (distributed by the aptly named “Major Meat, Inc.”) kills a whole bunch of people, while putting a whole bunch of others in a coma. Those in a coma eventually turn into zombies, and do what zombies do best: eat the living and spread the zombie plague. I’ve only seen the toxic meat = zombies once before (in the game Dead Rising), so I’m giving this credit for a creative zombie origin story.
Our protagonist, Jack Heart, misses all this. He was an executive at Major Meat, Inc., and got the boot right when all the problems started – well before the zombies showed up. Using his dismissal as an excuse to go on an extended camping and hiking trip along the Appalachian Trail, Jack disappears into the wilderness for a while. His enjoyment of nature’s beauty comes to a very sudden end when he is attacked by a zombified black bear, which he dispatches with a large knife (and no clothes, oddly enough). Sensing that there might be some major stuff going down, he comes back to civilization with an elderly man and his dog. Then things get really crazy.
That’s right, at some point after a guy gets into a naked knife fight with a zombie bear – and wins – things get really crazy.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with pulpy, over-the-top action. Kill Town, USA runs into trouble because it tries to cram so much into a scant eight-five pages. Things don’t really let up for a second, the hero just runs from one big action scene to the next, over and over again until the book ends. He never really gets a chance to think, recover, or even really develop as a character.
Jack Heart is simply an action delivery system. He comes loaded with all the skills necessary to survive the zombie apocalypse, despite the fact that his day job is working as an accountant for a meat distribution company. Now I’m not saying there aren’t accountants out there with loads of practical zombie-survival skills, but the conception of the character seems completely off.
This could be countered by letting us learn more about him as a person. Why does he have these skills, what made him a badass? Unfortunately, we don’t get any of that. Jack’s back story primarily comes from the tragic suicide of his father when he was younger. While that information is interesting, and it might inform some of his “survival at all cost” mindset, I didn’t feel this added to the character in any real way.
So at this point it seems like I’m slagging on the book pretty hard, but that’s not entirely fair. Kill Town, USA has a lot of potential. There’s the shell of a pretty cool pulpy zombie adventure here, but it needs to be fleshed out significantly, particularly in terms of character development and pacing.
The book is also completely indie, and the promotion was funded via KickStarter. I had my problems with the book, but I have to give credit where due at having and idea, and following it through to the end.
Fight a Zombie bear… naked ? lol… I wonder where the author got that from! It’s interesting though, I find that in every Zombie story the moment when the main character finds out about the ZA or at least figures out that something deeply wrong is going on is of paramount importance. While some might prefer a more psychological approach where we get to read the character’s inner thoughts when faced with the inconceivable, I tend to prefer a brutal and graphic revelation. From this perspective I suppose that a melee fight with a zombie bear is probably hard to top.
Hah, well said, sir.
Hmm… sounds like an interesting read. I wonder if some studio will pick this up, polish it up in script form, and make it into a good zombie movie?
Hah, I see you only gave it two zombie heads. I like your rating system.
The ratings system is really cool. That was Yatkuu’s brainchild.
This might work better as a movie than a novella, actually.