The R33PR Virus by Nathan Barnes is a deliberate account of one man’s mission to return to his family after the R33PR virus turns the infected into flesh eating zombies. His self names character, Nathan, is an everyman and his passion for his family pulls you into his story, making you fear for him and cheer for him as he makes his way across the city by foot.
Written first as a journal style blog, Barnes provides a play-by-play description of Nathan’s preparation for disaster, his inevitable separation from his family and his determined and heartbreaking trek home. He uses “Day One” headings and time stamps to designate the journal entries which range from long narrations of events to a paragraph or two about Nathan’s fears or plans against an obstacle.
Nathan is by no means a survivalist or militia man but instead a father and an employee who is doing the best he can for his family. He is out of shape, owns a beat up car and works overnight as a police dispatcher. He is nobody and everybody and this is what makes him so compelling. The slow progression of the story draws you in and nestles you into Nathan’s skin and I found I was emotionally vested in his goal to reach home.
Barnes explains the evolution of the R33PR virus from a mutation similar to the H1N1 virus into the R32PR virus. This disease causing severe flulike symptoms before killing the patient finally gives way to the zombie animating R33PR lovingly dubbed the “Reaper” virus by the press. I was in awe of Barnes meticulous accounts of, in the few days prior to the outbreak, trips to various stores for supplies, evacuation planning with his family and preparations made to his home. Nathan doesn’t know that zombies are coming but he knows that the R32PR is killing people and it is only a matter of time before people start to panic at all the death. I wondered if this is how the nation dealt with the Influenza outbreak of the 1910’s or perhaps even the turn of the century Y2K scare.
Once outside of his headquarters and on his way home, Nathan journey becomes a fast paced series of missions. He sets one small goal after another to get himself through his ordeal and Barnes’ use of detail and first-person narration make the situations and outcomes incredibly real to the reader. Nathan not only battles for physical survival against hungry zombies, he also faces the mental challenge of survival. What if he doesn’t hear the zombies coming? What if he helps someone and they turn on him? What if he doesn’t help them and they die because of him? What if his family isn’t there waiting for him? Nathan hits his physical and emotional limits and forces himself to move forward using his family as his carrot and the reader is right behind him grasping at their hope as well.
Moving on to the zombies, as is Barnes’ fashion, he paints a cogent and fearsome creature. Almost invincible, these Reapers have different levels of dexterity depending on the length of time since death. They will keep up pursuit even with missing limbs, crushed torsos and missing jaws. Only destroying the brain can end the monsters’ hunt for prey. The most chilling of features is the constant reflexive snapping of jaws. Even with a severed jaw, these zombies will continue to open and close their mouths as if chewing even when they are at rest awaiting a meal to present itself.
“These infected creatures are so set in their desire to eat me that any details preventing the meal become a moot point. Even though he is a few stories down, naked, tangled and battered by the ungodly waves; this bastard is still trying to get to me.”
–The R33PR Virus Chapter 10
There are so many significant moments in this book that although I read it blog about a year ago, I found that I relished experiencing them again – the jump across the river to the bridge, the people trapped on the bus, the Good Samaritans. Barnes’ zombies and Nathan’s journey has become entrenched in my personal zombie folklore and influences my own writing. Although very comprehensive, I highly recommend this, his first novel, to all fans of the zombie genre. If you enjoyed The Road, you will also love The R33PR Virus.
Great review! And I’m thrilled for Nathan!
Ditto! The blog was definately his baby and I’m so glad its been published.
Another outstanding review Angie. That book sounds like an absolute must read.
Thanks! It absolutely is – one of my top 2 favs ever.
“If you enjoyed The Road, you will also love The R33PR Virus.”
That’s a hell of a statement.
I was as attached to this character as I was to the Man and the Boy. I actually held my breath as I was reading some scenes and didn’t realize it until he was safe and I was breathing again.
I have a lot of mixed feelings about The Road. It was dark and bleak and imaginative- too dark to recommend to relatives I was trying to get interested in preparedness. I wrote a review of it when it came out in paperback in which I sarcastically described it as “a ray of sunshine on every page”. I actually had a hard time caring about the characters, as I recall.
This book seems like Alas, Babylon in its protagonist’s last minute preparations. I definitely prefer characters with weakness and peccadilloes over the typical author avatar superman. Real-life characters are so much more interesting. Consider Jerry Ahern’s protagonist in his The Survivor series, a medical doctor CIA agent? C’mon. Really?
What zombie books need is more Willy Loman and less John Rambo.
Yeah, I don’t think The Road works for preparedness at all. There’s just no long-term survival there.
Alas Babylon is one of my all-time favorite disaster/post-apocalyptic books. I highly recommend it.
“What zombie books need is more Willy Loman and less John Rambo.” Well said, sir.
Oh yeah The Road is depressing but I really enjoyed the deep melancholy. Push comes to shove, I think my inner child is emo.
“What zombie books need is more Willy Loman and less John Rambo.”
That is totally what sold me with this book. Nathan is not Rambo but failure is so not an option.
Thanks to all for the kind words. This book was stuck in my head for a long time. It very much became a part of me which is why I used real life as a motivator. I’m no John Rambo but I would do anything for the people I care about! Oh and a special thanks to Angie for such a great write up. As if I needed more reasons to love this site!