Written by: Mack Moyer
Among the Dead and Dying by A.R. Wise takes the zombie genre in a new direction, injecting it with a feudal society and a war for civil rights.
Not civil rights for your everyday brain munching zed head, of course, but for a slightly more civilized version: The half-dead, the still-mostly-human-yet-totally-infected half-zombies.
Taking place many years in the future after our pansy assed modern society got our butts kicked by zombies, a medieval society has emerged, eschewing our technological culture for a sword-and-armor, peasants-and-aristocrats approach.
In the Kingdom of Golden Rock, comprised of the Five Walls – five major cities each surrounded by big ol’ zombie-proof walls, a common sense move in a zombified future – political and religious leaders don’t tolerate the half-deads.
You can’t blame them, not at first. I mean the half-deads are still zombies, right? Once they croak they become zombie zombies, the very same kind that destroyed our ancient civilization.
Except these half-deads can think, they can feel and, yeah folks, they care about their loved ones. They’re people just as much as they are zombies.
But enter The Scholar, supposedly the villain of this new series but I’m not totally convinced. He’s a ruthless bastard, no question, leading a horde of half-deads and zombies against the Five Walls. He rallies his half-deads easily, and why not? The theocratic shitheads in Golden Rock would lop their heads off without question. The Scholar might not be big on human rights but he looks out for his own, which echoes countless tyrants throughout the years.
He might be bad news, but at least he ain’t chopping my goddamn head off.
The war for half-dead made me question which side I’m rooting for, which is wholly different for the zombie genre. See, I’m sort of a zombie hipster. I’ve been daydreaming about hordes of flesheaters and cherishing all my VHS Romero flicks since long before our current zombie-saturated world where everyone knows to aim for the head and we’re all, quite frankly, sick of Rick Grimes shouting “CARL!?”
But Among the Dead and Dying made me reconsider my loyalties to the human race when it comes to the undead. Surely, our evolution would find a way to co-exist with the undead germ, would it not? The half-deads are the answer, but those snooty uninfected human bastards won’t give them a chance.
I’m not sure if I’m rooting for the living this time around.
Finally, I would have scored this novel an extra half-point higher if this first entry in the series didn’t feel so much like a long prologue. A great read, to be sure, but the ending just sorta, ya know, ended when I felt the story was just picking up steam.
Ah well. Can’t wait for the next one.