Reviewed by Mike Chinn
Hereâ€™s an interesting slant on the zombie genre: instead of the usual unknown disease animating the dead, thereâ€™s a blinding light and everybody on the planet disappears â€“ to reappear some days later â€¦ changed. I say everybody, but obviously there have to be some survivors â€“ if thatâ€™s the word â€“ the plucky few who slowly gravitate together and find themselves up against the returning population.
The returned neatly defy many of the zombie clichÃ©s: initially slow and lumbering, they become more co-ordinated and deadly; all are wearing dark glasses and gloves, even though they tend to come out when itâ€™s dark; and weirdest of all, they exhibit an amazing ability to turn bog-standard cars and buses into flying vehicles straight out of Bladerunner. So where â€“ obviously not on Earth â€“ have they been?
My biggest problem with this introductory volume is the massive hiatus at the beginning. Crowther wastes no time setting up the mass disappearance â€“ but we have to wait some 200 pages before they start to come back again. 200 pages wherein those left behind â€“ for whatever reason â€“ stumble around not doing an awful lot. And if the walking dead avoid stereotype, Iâ€™m afraid the same canâ€™t be said for the human cast.
Young girl with psychic abilities: check; murderous psychopath and probable paedophile: check; loving, long-married couple whose close relationship is begging for trouble: check; slightly crazy lady with multiple personalities: checkâ€¦ Though thereâ€™s a woman DJ who just has to have been inspired by Adrienne Barbeau from Carpenterâ€™s The Fog.
I was also irritated by the authorâ€™s habit of throwing in paragraphs of minor charactersâ€™ back-story whenever we first meet them. In one scene a returned deputy sheriff gets a whole page of folksy anecdotes right after he looms menacingly out of the night. It kills all the tension stone dead.
That said, once the action gets going, Crowther doesnâ€™t let up. Chapters barrel past; blood and guts spray in all directions in a suitably OTT manner. A fun take on a familiar sub-genre â€“ just a shame it takes so long to get properly going.