Written by: Matthew J. Barbour
The walking dead are everywhere: video games, television, movies and, most importantly, books. Every writer has their own take or story to tell about the zombie apocalypse. However, few zombie novels have attracted the buzz associated with Bryan Smith’s latest novel, Slowly We Rot.
Slowly We Rot follows the trials and tribulations of Noah, several years after the outbreak of a zombie plague which wiped out nearly of all of the world’s inhabitants. Noah did not survive because he was smarter or stronger than the rest of civilization. He just happened to be lucky. An alcohol and drug abuser, Noah’s life was falling apart long before the zombie menace came. He has spent the apocalypse isolated in a remote cabin doing his best to avoid the monsters that roam this world and the mental demons which terrorize his mind. However, one can only hide for so long.
Noah has believed his sister dead for many years until her unexpected return to the cabin. The arrival stirs both feelings of guilt and hope. Combined these emotions give Noah the strength needed to confront his past. He sets out on a journey across the wasteland to find his long lost love, Lisa. Along the way, Noah we face the monsters and demons he spent a life time avoiding with all of it ending in one of the most unexpected conclusions ever written in horror literature.
Does the book live up to the hype? Yes and no. The book is written from the perspective of Noah, a deeply flawed character grappling with some pretty serious issues. Living in isolation for such a long time has not helped his frail psyche. Ultimately, Slowly We Rot has less to do with the deterioration of the world and more to do with the decline of Noah’s own fragile mental state. Noah’s breaks with reality are handled incredibly well by Smith. Many times it is left up to the reader to decide what is real and what is fantasy.
The downside is, for lovers of the zombie genre, Slowly We Rot has actually very little to do with the zombie apocalypse. Those elements the novel does have are stereotypical and expected. There is nothing new for zombie lovers here. Moreover, Smith has been moving away from splatterpunk to a more psychological horror for some time and that transition is on full display in the novel. If you expect passages of walking dead devouring the living, this isn’t for you.
This is a thinking man’s (or woman’s) book. Smith goes out of his way not to explain things. This can be frustrating, as well as, confusing to the reader. However, it leads to a stronger overall narrative. Slowly We Rot will challenge you. If you are ready for it, pick up the novel today.