SP Blackmore’s Grave New World is a zombie apocalypse novel written in the first person, nearly stream of consciousness. The book is relatively short and proposed to be the first in a new series, ostensibly about survival in the new, zombie infested world. With a female narrator rather than the typical male, this novel is a bit different from most others, but still has the true ring of your basic zombie apocalypse story.
Set in a world and time like our own, Grave New World follows a rock magazine writer’s journey through the end of the world. The basic gist of the end times involves meteors striking the Earth, killing and maiming those nearby, with several major cities being hit. The narrator is located in theMidwest, in a small grouping of towns that aren’t particularly small or large. The survivors first face the problems of large meteors hitting the planet – ash, fire, and melting pavement. Several people die just because of these factors. It is hinted that the zombie virus comes from the meteor and people around the crash site start getting violent and eating their fellow man.
The narrator is teamed with a punk rock artist she was interviewing, who serves as the “People are innately good!” character throughout the book. At each turn, he is the one to question morality against survival. The narrator is also in league with a writer for the antique gun restoration magazine upstairs, who is the survivalist. He isn’t the rabid gun fanatic that you might assume, but he is concerned with survival and how people go ‘bad’ at the end of the world. The three are stationed in building in town and fight off zombies and the vestiges of a gang that plagued the streets before hand.
Eventually they must get out and do so on a motorcycle, with three people and a dog riding it. At the end of the novel, they arrive at a safe shelter and are surprised to see people that were bitten, but the bites are healing. The book ends here, leaving many questions unanswered to prompt the reading of the next book, due out sometime in 2012.
Grave New World honestly drew me because of the title. I liked the play on Huxley’s novel and I also like the dystopian world that it suggests may be created in the zombie apocalypse. The book was mostly about survival, as zombie novels tend to be, with little moral discussion and little connection to outside people in the story – families and friends are rarely mentioned.
The lead character being a female is definitely interesting. It doesn’t change too much, but the leading role in zombie books and movies is generally always a male, with a few exceptions. They will often have a female partner, but never a female describing everything as it happens. Of course, the woman is independent and tough, very close to a male in the sense of socialized expectations. She was also an ex EMT, so she can ‘handle’ things a bit better.
The book was an interesting take on zombies, if nothing else because of the spread and characteristics of the disease. You see mutated zombies, you see people bitten that aren’t turned, and you see normal zombies. The emphasis isn’t on the zombies eating, either, which is odd. Normally people are horrified by someone being devoured in front of them – this group just carries on what they were doing with the zombies in the background, but still observed. It is also intimated that the zombies may remember some vestiges of life before zombie-hood, as certain zombies that knew members of the group don’t attack them outright. This is also occurring when already obtained food is present, though, so isn’t necessarily a concrete fact.
Leaning a bit on the contrived side, the novel is fairly entertaining. The ending is curious, making you want to know more, but ends abruptly. It makes you think the author may have gotten tired and just barely stopped himself from writing “…and they all lived happily ever after.” Well known zombie archetypes are all existent here, but they are not enough of a cliché to fault them. Humanity reacts certain ways in situations of stress and you can’t really expect writers to branch out from this too much and still have a believable, consumable piece of work.
There is also an odd affiliation of bathrooms with civilization, as though the most important aspect of modern culture is our indoor plumbing. This may have been the writer’s attempt to humanize the story and make it seem direr than the rest of the situation portrayed. Every time there is a bathroom anywhere in the vicinity, it is mentioned, as well as the fact that it flushes. Plumbing would not be on my high priority list when it comes to the end of the world, but it is nice to have some creature comforts when fighting for your life.
In all, I would recommend this book to a zombie lit reader. If you’re looking to break into the zombie genre, absolutely read World War Z by Max Brooks – there is no comparison. Regardless, Grave New World was a good little cheap novel. I’m not sure I would have bought it if it was over $0.99, though.
Speculative Fiction Challenge 2012 – book # 2