Even though I have admitted to being tired of the glut of zombie stories that have popped up in recent years, I was a fan of the undead even before it was cool. I still enjoy a good zombie story if it is done well and am always looking for such tales. I was intrigued by Pembroke Sinclair’s Life After the Undead and was hoping for some zombie carnage and mayhem when I started the book.
When the zombie apocalypse ravaged the world and destroyed civilization, Krista found herself alone in an entirely new world with no idea of what would happen next. Since the zombies deteriorated quicker in heat and humidity, the undead tended to migrate toward the Western United States while the surviving humans moved to the Southeast. Krista soon settled into a life of relative safety through servitude in Florida but was restless and wanting more. When she discovers that the man leading the efforts of the humans to build a wall in Nebraska to separate the living from the undead is a distant cousin, she decides to leave the safety of Florida and help him in a quest to find a family connection as well as to help improve the world.
Krista finds that the notions of serving humanity and trying to make the world a better place may be words used to hide the truth of the situation and nothing more. Nebraska was a cruel and dangerous place that was filled with not just the perils of the undead but also the all too human vices of seizing as much power as possible. Her cousin wanted nothing more than to rule the outpost with an iron fist and milk his power for all of the privileges that he could gain. Krista must now find a way to escape his grip and take the actions that he had promised but never delivered to the people of Florida. It will not be easy, though, as she finds herself caught between the hunger of the undead for her flesh and the hunger of the living for power with her life hanging in the balance.
I thought that the premise for Life After the Undead promised that the story would be different than the run of the mill stories that have become all too common in the zombie genre and I was not disappointed. Sinclair crafts a story that is part zombie apocalypse and part western with a dystopian twist to create a unique take on what is fast becoming a tired theme. I found myself quickly caught up in the story with its mixture of human drama and zombie action. I think it would be difficult to say that I really cared about the characters in the book but the novel is more story than character driven and the characters were just strong enough to make it work. There is not a whole lot of grey in this novel but rather Sinclair works mainly in the realm of black and white with the people and events clearly recognizable as good and evil. The evil far outweighs the good and that keeps the story moving right along as Krista must struggle against seemingly insurmountable odds.
What makes Life After the Undead stand above the crowd for me is the humanity that Sinclair puts into the story, both the good and the bad. The zombies may be the monsters in the story but Sinclair makes sure that the reader is well aware of that fact that humans can be monstrous as well. The novel provides a strong look into the zombie apocalypse that focuses more on society rather than on the struggles against the undead and shows how tragedy can bring out the best and the worst in people. There is enough zombie action to satisfy fans of the genre but it is the people and the struggle to form a type of civilization that fit each character’s individual worldview that kept me glued to the pages. Life After the Undead does not break new ground but it does provide a fresh perspective on a somewhat tired genre.
I would like to thank Booktrope and NetGalley for this review copy. Life After the Undead is available now.