The Rising - Brian Keene It’s zombie month and I am reading this one for Jare’s Spills & Chills Release Challenge over at bookcrossing.com. I seem to have quite the backlog of Keene books and they are neatly fitting the challenges. Awesome.

Having enjoyed Keene’s Conqueror Worms post-apocalyptic novel about giant worms (seriously) I’m excited to see what he does with zombies.

The book starts out similarly to The Conqueror Worms with a male protagonist telling the story of how his world collapsed but this time around instead of a cranky old dude we get an emotionally fragile young father. The stakes have been upped and I’m hooked already.

A zombie outbreak has destroyed civilization as we know it. Fortunately for Jim he prepared for Y2K and built a bunker where he has been hiding out alone ever since his second wife died of pneumonia and turned into a blood-thirsty zombie. His young son lives in another state with his ex-wife and he fears he’s dead until his cell phone receives a message telling him otherwise. Coincidentally, his phone runs out of juice just as he’s finished listening to the message so he can’t call him back. Damn, that would be my luck. Now he must escape the angry hoards of zombies in order to locate and save his boy.

These aren’t your typical slow, brain-dead, zombies stumbling about with a mindless hunger for flesh. These zombies are scarier. They’re angry, can use tools, drive, retain memories and will eat parts of you, leaving the rest available for their brethren to possess. Early on it is revealed that scientists were experimenting with other realms and somehow weakened the barrier allowing demons clear access to dead bodies both human and animal. Don’t ask me to explain, I admit that I didn’t understand this bit at all.

As our hero is making his journey he crosses paths with other survivors all with their own survival stories. It’s mostly interesting stuff but too often the zombies/demons act inconsistently when it is convenient for prolonging the life of a key character. Supposedly the zombies are angry and evil and have overrun the world and are living on human flesh which is in short supply. So why, when they spot a living human, would they give a little chase, shrug what’s left of their shoulders and basically say, “Oh, we’ll get him later.” and then drive away from the human who was hoofing it? Maybe I’ve seen too many zombie movies but sorry I’m not buying that silliness at all.

The other key characters are a guilt ridden scientist, a deaf boy, a heroine addict in withdrawal, a pastor and a bunch of military dudes (most of whom are stereotypical power hungry brutes). None of these folks are all that likable with all their faults, with the exception of the dad, but most are compelling nonetheless.

Keene plays a fun little game of spot the horror author and names many of his brutish colonels and members of their brigade after fellow horror writers. I spotted Schow, Robert Dunbar, Partridge, Miller, “and that shifty littler fucker Skip” who turns out to be not quite as bad as the rest. There may have been more but those guys stood out and gave me a good laugh.

I put this book down at about the midway point because a copy of Joe Hill’s Horns was made available to me. After finishing Horns (which was amazing) I found myself enjoying this book a whole lot less. The character flaws, stereotypes and dumb-ass decisions made by the survivors and the zombies began to grate on my nerves. There is one scene that features a young boy and his dad that about made me put the book down for good. I absolutely could not believe what the characters had just allowed to happen. I won’t spoil it but you’ll know what I’m talking about if you make it this far in the book. The solution was so simple to me yet the author writes an entirely unnecessary ghastly scene for shock value and emotional effect. Or at least that’s how it came across to me. The only emotion I felt was anger for the heavy handed manipulation. And yet I trudged on, a glutton for punishment as always . . .

In the end, I was not thrilled with myself for finishing this book. There was way too much gratuitous rape that pretty much takes over the last part of the book and the ending is a cliffhanger. But don’t despair; you can always buy the continuation to learn the end. Since I have it in my tbr pile already I’ll probably give it a go only because I liked “The Conqueror Worms” so much but if I didn’t own it already I might be a wee bit annoyed.