LENGTH: 451 pages
PUBLISHER: Surprisingly Adequate Publishing
Hell has hung out a No-Vacancy sign, leaving the dead to wander the earth. And they are hungry.
Rachel Aukes is the latest author to explore humanity on the brink of extinction in her debut novel, 100 Days in Deadland, first published by Surprisingly Adequate Publishing in August 2013.
Our entry in the world comes in the form of a young woman in her 20’s, who quickly discovers that all is not right in her office bathroom when she’s attacked by several women who seem to have an unhealthy obsession with eating human flesh, in general, and hers, in particular.
The narrator stumbles outside and into a world gone mad. Lurching horrors in human form stagger through the streets, pulling down and eating people at random. She and a coworker quickly run out of options and are about to join the shambling horde when they are reluctantly rescued by a man named Clutch, who has just the truck they need to escape. Our narrator almost loses her ride when her coworker succumbs to a bite and becomes ravenous himself, shortly before using his blood and brain to paint the back of the truck.
Clutch reluctantly agrees to help Cash, as he calls the narrator because she was wearing all black clothing, by taking her to his home outside the city. Once there, Cash begins paying Clutch back for the rescue by cleaning out his truck. Afterwards, sore and tired and more than a little shellshocked, Cash comes back inside. Clutch grabs her and zip ties her hands behind her back, zip ties her ankles and then locks her in a room alone. Just in case.
Although the characterization of Cash, Clutch and several other folks is well done, Cash could be seen as too forgiving of this behavior. It and other actions began implying that Cash acted as she did from a severe case of Stockholm Syndrome, in which a hostage begins identifying with a captor.
As with many zombie (or zed, as the book calls them) stories, the danger comes from the living and the dead. Cash, Clutch and a young boy they save must fight back against a power-hungry militia, led by a man with no compunction against weaponizing zeds.
Although there were some plot issues (When and where did the militia keep getting all those zeds?), the book was well-written with an action-oriented plot, some interesting romantic issues, and an engaging main character.
Readers who enjoy zombie stories of survival horror should enjoy this book. Aukes does an interesting job of showing the beginning of civilization’s breakdown and the ascendency of the dead. Her bad guys were a little too much of the bad-because-they’re-bad school, but did provide sufficient challenge for Cash and the other main characters. Aukes drew inspiration from Dante’s Inferno and sometimes had to haul out the theme hammer to make it fit. Still, it was a gripping read, easily worth the time and money.
The book received four stars for some odd characterization choices and plot holes not adequately explained.
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Richard ED Jones is an award-winning former reporter who moved to fiction so he wouldn't be fired for telling stories. His fiction can be found on his website. He's also author of "A Dude's Guide to Babies," a hilarious how-tobook for new dads.