Zombie Book Review: Coldbrook

I like it when books can take a very flawed character and make me care about them. It’s a tough thing to pull off, but done well it’s extremely satisfying. The sci-fi zombie thriller Coldbrook does just that, by taking what should be the book’s accidental villain, and making him its most compelling character. Where lesser writers would make this character cowardly or stupid, Coldbrook‘s author gives him deep inner struggles and motivations that make you imagine yourself in his situation.

The titular Coldbrook is a secluded scientific research facility nestled deep in the Appalachians. The scientists in Coldbrook have just had a major breakthrough: punching through the invisible walls of the multiverse, and opening a portal to another Earth.

And, since you’re seeing the review here, you can pretty safely assume that this other Earth – quickly dubbed Gaia – is overrun with zombies. While the scientists at Coldbrook take measures to prevent lifeforms from Gaia from crossing over into our Earth, the reanimated dead don’t have any problems shambling through.

Coldbrook has other safeguards, of course, that prevent anything from within the facility from getting out. In theory, these would have worked perfectly. Except, of course, for the human factor that no safeguard can account for. That human factor is Vic, who finds out about the emergency and sneaks out through the ductwork, giving the zombie outbreak an opportunity to escape Coldbrook and spread. And spread it does, crossing state and country lines at an unbelievable pace; the zombie outbreak soon threatens all of humanity.

But let’s get back to Vic. He’s the character I referred to in the first paragraph. When Vic learns that something nasty has come through, he panics and runs. He doesn’t do this for his own personal safety, however. He does it to try to get his wife and daughter to safety. He feels that he owes them, especially his wife, for the betray of a long-term affair he had with another Coldbrook employee, Holly. As soon as his wife became pregnant, he ended the affair, but could never find peace. Ultimately, he loved two women, but was wracked by guilt.

This personal drama helps frame his selfish decision that ultimately allows the zombies to break containment and spread their disease. It also what drives him to do everything he can, at great personal peril, to try to find a cure and at least mitigate some of the damage he’s done.

Where Coldbrook loses me a bit is with this group of characters called “Inquisitors”, who come from yet another alternate Earth. Without giving too much away, they posses either incredible technology or magic that allows them to travel between worlds at will, taking from each a new Inquisitor to swell their ranks. While interesting, I found a lot of this plot line too fantastical for the book, which is much more science-fiction focused. The Inquisitors were just a couple steps too many when it came to suspension of disbelief.

Despite wandering into fantasy territory, Coldbrook is a good read with nicely developed characters and some really great action sequences. It made me very curious about the different versions of Earth some characters encounter, and how and when they might have split from our own. It’s a zombie apocalypse for sci-fi fans.

Grade: 4 zombies heads out of 5


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