Friday, May 11, 2012

Down the Road - Just keep walking, seriously.

Alternate title - Zombies cribbing notes from Family Guy.

Today's book is Bowie Ibarra's Down the Road. The zombies of the book are your typical crawlers. The slow sort that Savini poked fun at in his remake of Night of the Living Dead. You know, where the main character walks up and taunts one before just walking past them? Yeah..

That's fine though. The real threats of the books are actually FEMA and the military and it's done with all the subtlety of James Cameron writing the script to a Feed movie. I want this guy's .38 revolver though, it will decapitate people with ease. Yes really. And our main character George Zaragosa is in the same vein as The First Days. He's unlikeable and at this point he's cruel, though the people he's taking it out on aren't any better. X-Com's renamed soldiers have more personality and likeability than anyone we've met so far and I tended to shoot anything not wearing an X-Com uniform on the zombie missions. Yes, I feel worse losing a blob of pixels from a game made in 95 to anything I've met in the book. This one was hard guys. The blurb on the cover says, "Shocking and disturbing... This is pulp zombie fiction at it's best" which... tells me either the guy's got not taste or doesn't read much. Sandman Slim's Kill the Dead was much more enjoyable and it's much closer to 'pulp' than this book and World War Z for all of it's logic gaps, was also much, much more enjoyable.

I've mentioned this one was painful right? I forced my way through feed. This one is making me contemplate digging out a zippo. Jesus the book is only 200 pages and I'm struggling. And now it's the Illuminati and this ex-military guy just so happens to have the full story. All the cliches are out in full force.

So. The book opens with our teacher talking about the rapidly declining situation. He talks about his shitty apartment, then rambles about the shitty state of things, then his apartment, then things, then he decides to leave. He becomes surprised by the sudden burst of speed from a shambler, then drives off. On the highway, cops have set up a roadblock and are ticketing people and pulling them off the road if they can't pay. Realistically this scene would work better if it were the officers were trying to maintain order instead of just gouging for money, but we'll let this first one slide. Our 'hero' plows into them, killing one and severely hurting the other before driving off. He turns around after a while, having forgotten his dead fiancee's crucifix at the school. For something this important that he drives back into a zed hotzone, you think it would've at least been at his house.. He runs into a fellow teacher, they screw after a brief scuffle with zombies and then he's gone again with her in the passenger seat. They get to a gas station, meet more disposable goons who talk about pricks from a different fraternity, then FEMA attacks (Yes really) and the other teacher is gone. He escapes, is mugged by the other fraternity and kills two of them, then knee-caps the other two and laughs as they're eaten. (Yes really) He's picked up by FEMA and the Military and they're the typical zombie setting badguys. They mark him as "A red square" and he's tossed into the camp. The camp is set up in four groups, group 1 of the tough guys, 2 of the black guys, 3 of the rednecks or.. something and 4 for the 'spics' as the book so eloquently put it.

Here he finds out that they toss redsquares out over the wall as bait to save money and that things in the camp are horrible. He pisses off a redneck wearing a rebel flag shirt (Yes really) and then pisses off the Mexicans and starts a gangwar that lets him escape. With two disposable meats and a girl, he escapes by shooting soldiers and doing things like intentionally wounding to let zombies kill them instead. The boy and the redneck are eaten of course, leaving him and the girl. They meet up with a group, shoot up a military checkpoint, then go home. At home they meet the one-eyed guy from an earlier flashback that he couldn't possibly have had since he wasn't there, then he screws the new girl too. Then he screws the new girl. Then he dreams about screwing the new girl. Then they get talking and find out the eye-patch man is eeeeviiiil and kidnaps Misty to... do something to George who he barely knows as more than the fiancee of a woman he killed. She's tossed over a wall, breaking her elbow and ankle before she's eaten. Then a deus ex machina kills his guys, a muddled fight breaks out and the badguy is knee capped and eaten as well. They escape, then the guy that was bitten earlier coughs on a convenient scratch on George's hand, he drives home as he becomes slowly infected, eats a bunny that wandered up to him, makes it home and has his head blown off by his dad.

If this review sounded hurried, keep in mind this book was actually less than 200 pages. It jumped around, featured wholly unlikeable characters and as it went on just further aggravated me. Much like feed, I enjoyed his downfall, turning into a zombie, it was actually the closest to creepy that the book got. Unfortunately, to get there it was so contrived, so contrite and had happened to such an unlikeable man that I was just glad it was over. As a whole, authority figures were all evil, military was evil, cops, evil, drug dealers... well obviously evil, but presented better than the military in a very bizarre manner. The ending, the non-zombie part was unsatisfying and sort of read like a cliche checklist almost. All in all, I'd put this book on par with Feed in terms of writing, but with a less well designed world.

With that said, I think this book would've benefited greatly from just having more pages. Establishing the characters and settings better while also offering fewer jarring changes between scenes. Adding at least /some/ variation to the "EEEEVIIIIL" badguys would've been nice. I about threw the book across the room when the book (only slightly paraphrased) combined military insertions, explosions and gunfire with FEMA broadcasting, "You are not under attack, we are here to help. Resistance will result in neutralization". I think some stronger characterization in general would've helped, especially for George. The characters rotated out too much, there was too much emphasis on him humping the random dead girl and as I mentioned a few times, it really did read like a cliche checklist a few times. Hopefully if/when the author goes at it again, he writes a longer book and focuses more on the characters, or at least balances things better.


Also, I realized towards the end of this that this is the second zombie book with a main character named George. This needs to stop. Now. I nominate Shaun.

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