Saturday, November 08, 2014

Omega Days - John L. Campbell

Omega Days
John L. Campbell


 It’s the zombie apocalypse.  One minute, various people around the San Francisco area are going about their daily business; the next minute, they’re surrounded by the dead, the dying, and the newly risen.  Live people are now food – or at least, prey – for the relentless dead.  After infection and death, it takes only moments for a corpse to rise and turn on any living person in proximity. 

The characters we follow through the wasteland are a pretty good cross-section of humanity.  There’s Skye, who was moving into the dorms at UC Berkeley when the zombies came through and violently took her family.  There’s Xavier, a priest who is in the throes of questioning his dedication to (and fitness for) his calling.  Bud and Angie Franks, who star in a reality show about firearms and their use.  Evan Tucker, who fancies himself this generation’s Kerouac. All are trapped in a nightmare that no one saw coming and no one can stop.  The contagion is everywhere, and no one is immune.

The narrative shifts back and forth among the survivors, following each person/group as they try to navigate their way to some kind of safety.  Each character is written as a complex individual with a personal history.  They all act with varying and realistic degrees of bravery and integrity.  The infrastructure of society breaks down fairly quickly, leaving everyone to fend for themselves.  Some rise to the occasion, some look for any personal advantage. 

The action is nonstop and brutal.  If you’re squeamish, look elsewhere.  If you’re not, get ready to stay up late turning pages.  The sense of terror and isolation are very real.  We all unconsciously rely on the authorities – and the power grid – to a huge extent.  Part of the horror of this situation is the feeling of being set adrift in the world, to rely only on yourself and whatever survival skills you might have.  That feeling is absolutely palpable here.  I admit to turning on the news at one point, just to remind myself that this is not happening outside my door.  But I was so hooked, I never considered closing the book.  Several threads are left dangling at the end, so it’s good to know that there’s a second book out.  I’ve already started it.

Rating: 9
May 2014
ISBN# 978-0-425-27263-3 (trade paperback)


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