Written by: Matthew J. Barbour
The Rising, by Brian Keene, is often cited among the top ten best zombie novels ever written. The year it was released Keene won the Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel. Keene’s post-apocalyptic world was something new and done in a style that took the horror community by storm.
The zombies of The Rising were not mindless automatons. They were walking corpses inhabited by demons and imbued with the knowledge of their hosts. They could speak, use tools, set traps, etc… Furthermore, the infection did not stop with humankind, but spread to the surrounding wildlife. There were zombie rats, birds, and even zombie deer. The only advantage man had against the undead plague is that, due to rot, these creatures moved slower than they had in life.
At its heart, The Rising was a story about a father’s love for his son. Jim had faith that his boy, Danny, was alive and he would stop at nothing to reach him. Along the way, Jim befriended the priest, Martin, and the ex-hooker, Frankie. Together they repeatedly came face to face with the hordes of walking dead, each time triumphing over the demons consuming the planet. Then, the book ended with the cliffhanger of all cliffhangers.
City of the Dead is a direct sequel to The Rising and resolves the ending of the first novel along with addressing many of the questions that arose from the narrative. Jim’s faith is rewarded and together the group finds their way to what is essentially the last bastion of humanity, a skyscraper in the heart of New York City. Led by the fictional equivalent of Donald Trump, the human race will make one final stand against the zombie hordes which have taken control of the planet. The result is a definitive finale which leaves no questions as to the fate of Jim and his boy while still playing upon the notion of faith and God.
While many argue that The Rising and City of the Dead are halves of a larger narrative. Both novels work as standalones. City of the Dead has a pulp horror feel which in many ways surpasses its predecessor. It simply has more gore, more sex, and more over-the-top antics by Ob, the leader of the zombie horde. It also the better written of the two, as Keene demonstrates his growing strength as an author.
However, The Rising, with its unpolished writing and unique take on the zombie apocalypse, was something new. In many ways both conceptually and in plot mechanics, City of the Dead is a rehash. It is great, but the reader loses some of the shock and excitement of the earlier work. If you loved the characters and monsters of The Rising, you will love City of the Dead. It is more of the same only done better.
Order it right here.