St. Martin’s Griffin, $13.99
In less than twenty-four hours, billions are dead. The virus killed so fast that on one block a William Price was first to go and within five minutes his entire street had become a cemetery. Less than 1% of mankind survived the first wave. Those who do are in shock as they say good-bye to loved ones and in Britain they soon realize when no one responds to 999 or anything on the radio that civilization as they know it is over.
Factory mechanic Carl Henshawe cannot believe his beloved wife and their little girl is dead. Computer company executive Michael Collins gives lecture to a class of teens ignoring him when he horrifically watches them die. Fighting a cold medical student Emma Mitchell skips class and goes to the nearby shop to buy food only to see the owner and other patrons die. The few survivors find one another at a dilapidated community center waiting for first responders who never come. Instead as supplies dwindle, the dead begin to reanimate. The noise of the living disturbs the undead and even loved ones are coming to silence those who have not changed; the only thing that stops them is their rotting flesh.
This is an enjoyable cerebral zombie thriller in which David Moody looks deep into the souls of those who survived the virus; for instance others like Phillip struggle to move on pass a deceased loved one. Slowly the few humans find civilization stripped bare until the only thing left is whether it is worth the fight to stay alive. Though the story line is at times deliberately slow as Michael, Carl and Emma rotate internal pensive musings, readers who relish a different bite on zombies will appreciate the grim moody atmosphere of Autumn.
The sentient space traveling vessel Ship plants the human seeds on many worlds. Before disembarking, Ship always promises to return to judge humanity. On the planet Home, Ship left behind humanity (see Earthseed), but after he left the species divided into two branches (see Farseed). Inside of the dome left behind by Ship lives the Dome Dwellers who believe they only abide to the creator’s admonition of being “true humanity” while waiting for the second coming. Those who left the dome to live off the land near the great river as farmers and hunters are technologically low. These River People believe Ship’s vision for mankind is to live in harmony on Home. Each side believes strongly the other side is “contaminated”.
The River People see the strange light in the sky they assume means Ship has returned for Judgment Day. Inside the dome, excitement and fear is high that Ship has come back to see how humanity has fared. However, the dome radio operators find their communication devices fail to make contact with Ship. The River Dwellers are concerned that the Dome Dwellers have sold them out as impure. Teenagers Bian and Arnagh begin a journey to the dome to learn what is going on.
With obvious religious implications of a second coming judgment day in which each side of humanity expects Ship to choose their way of life over the other as Pamela Sargent provides a deep science fiction story in which she lucidly makes the case that materialism (Dwellers) without purpose is futile. The reactions to the anticipated return is fascinating since the Dome Dwellers insist they are “true” yet fear Judgment while the River People fear the Dome Dwellers have left them to be condemned. Although the characters are somewhat interchangeable except for the teens, readers will enjoy this philosophical look at two cultures in which regardless of what Ship rules life will never be the same as the creator has returned. Harriet Klausner
A Darker Shade of Dead
Kensington Brava, $14.00
Dr. Sandra McCormick knows she will go to her grave seeing the marines brutally murdered eight months ago by the zombies created by her peers led by Dr. Rodriguez who used her genetic experiments on innocent people (see Once Bitten, Twice Dead). She hopes to at least find an antidote, but has little chance of doing so under current conditions as being persona non grata except by Rodriguez, who demands she return to the zombie project or he will expose her to the world as the creator.
Still she obtains a top secret government assignment to work with the military and civilian agencies on creating the antidote under the direction of Commander Matt Sykes before the virus goes pandemic. He distrusts her as he senses she conceals something critical from him. She fears his reaction if he learns her research led to the zombie plague that killed the marines and others. Then there is Rodriguez threatening to destroy her unless she hands over her research to him.
Zombie fever fans will enjoy this entertaining romantic urban fantasy in which, as she did in Once Bitten, Twice Dead (whose leads support this tale), Bianca D’Arc refreshingly (and shockingly) has two humans fall in love. The story line is fast-paced for the most part as the stars battle zombies and Rodriquez and their attraction; however it slows down when Sandra turns lecturer explaining the zombie virus and her efforts for an antidote. Readers will want to join the scientist and the soldier at the front trying to prevent a zombie pandemic even as they fall in love. Harriet Klausner