As always I want to thank Netgalley and Aconyte books for giving me an e-ARC of this title in exchange for a fair and honest review. I also want to thank Josh Reynolds for writing this.
I feel I should preface this review by saying I had very high expectations and was excited for this title as soon as I saw it. From first seeing the original Dawn of the Dead and playing Resident Evil 1 on PS1 I have had a slight obsession with Zombies. Some may question my parents for letting me do this but honestly I’ve turned out fine, maybe a little nerdy but no worse for wear! In my younger years it was just the horror, threat and good old action. As I got older, I realized that it wasn’t just that but the psychology that interested me. This obsession as grown with me from movies, comics, books and games. I have spent countless hours playing alone or with friends. In fact, Zombicide is one of my favourites to play – now if we survive or not is another matter but it’s good fun all around – especially when you add in a bit of role-paying! See, just a BIT nerdy.
So as I said I had to reign myself in to ensure I gave a fair review. Only a chapter in and I knew I didn’t need to bother. Let’s start with an overview of the novel. Zombies now roam the world, threaten to wipe out all of mankind. Several survivors have been driven up into the Airondacks trying to make a stand. Enter our main protagonist, Westlake, an hardened career criminal (a very nice touch!) on the path for ‘the Villa’. A legendary Mafia hideout where he can escape devastation and maybe find some closure. Unfortunately, things never go the way they are planned, especially with zombies involved and he’s soon ambushed by the undead. Just when things seem dire an old FBI ‘friend’ and their team (including a dog!) rescue him.
Stuck between a rock and enclosing hordes of dead, Westlake is forced to reveal his secret. The myth of the Villa suddenly becomes a real possibility of salvation for the settlers and settlements set up around Saranc Lake. Reluctantly, Westlake is saddled with an oddball team who have to learn to work together, or maybe not, and navigate a plethora of dangers including navigating mine fields, trip wires, and to top it all off flesh-eating zombies at every turn. Hope seems to be on their side – only when they find the mythical Villa it seems someone is already there.
Now without going into too many spoilers I want to say the characters were fantastic, that is not to say all were likable, but the mix match of contrasting personalities and skills gave the novel a real feel of realism and also added in a nice touch of conflict. As I said above this is what I’ve come to love of the zombie genre. Even when danger is mounting some people just won’t get along, some even going out of their way to cause trouble and it adds so much to a story when these are portrayed well and Josh Reynolds does just that!
By keeping the characters true to their own personality and traits Reynolds brings these characters to life, you can see bits of yourself, friends, family or co-workers in some of the traits and I found myself becoming more invested than normal in the characters. The mixture of backgrounds and personalities create a fantastic group dynamic that is sometimes strained and sometimes amazing. I don’t want to spoil anything but there is one badass Grandma character in here that I one) loved and two) would like to think my own nan would have been just like that.
That isn’t to say this is all character driven. Reynolds has some fast-paced and nerve-wrecking action in here as well. Not to mention some brilliant, albeit sometimes gory detail that you are sure to find something for everyone. By no means does Reynolds describe everything but he gives enough detail that you can easily and vividly imagine just what the characters are seeing, hearing and refreshingly smelling! I have found in some zombie related media the idea of smell is never mentioned, while it’s not every two minutes we do get reminded that not only is our oddball team facing natural dangers, flesh-eating zombies and each other but they are also putting up with a series of less than pleasant smells. It may seem like a little thing, but I truly appreciated these added details in creating a more succinct and real feeling.
In conclusion this book has everything you could want from a novel featuring zombies and so much more besides. Even characters you might not like you end up invested in their wellbeing. The writing is fantastic, fast-paced and engaging. The dialogue is natural and flows, matching each character perfectly. The only downside is it was not long enough! But if you are like me, it will definitely cure that zombie and Zombicide itch!
The ebook will be available from October 12th 2021 along with the paperback in the US, the UK paperback will be released in November 25th 2021 (which I have already preordered!)
Aconyte books is based in Nottingham, UK and the publishing department of Asmodee entertainment.
JOSH REYNOLDS is the author of over thirty novels and numerous short stories, including the wildly popular Warhammer: Age of Sigmar and Warhammer 40,000. He grew up in South Carolina and now lives in Sheffield, UK.
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