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As I'm sure you're aware by now, there's no shortage of zombie stories on the market. Over the past several years, the undead creatures have staged a full scale invasion of the horror genre. Finding inspiration in the films of George R. Romero, apocalypses abound in which the human race faces extinction at the hands—and mouths—of the hungry, reanimated dead. So much so that one may wonder if any more such tales need be told, if it's possible for writers to add something original to this overpopulated subgenre.
The continued success of movies like WORLD WAR Z (loosely based on the hugely popular Max Brooks novel) and television shows such as THE WALKING DEAD would suggest that the public's appetite for all things zombie has yet to wane. How long this will be the case, though, is anybody's guess. As long as authors can find new and inventive ways to feed the public's hunger for these kinds of tales, there seems to be no reason it should dissipate anytime soon. If readers are given nothing but the same old same old, however, this is one craze that will soon find itself dead and buried alongside any number of other literary and cultural trends that came before it.
That being said, we turn our attention to THE WAY OF ALL FLESH, a zombie novel from prolific horror writer Tim Waggoner (DYING FOR IT, NEKROPOLIS, SUPERNATURAL: CARVED IN FLESH). When the story opens, the apocalypse has already occurred, civilization has fallen, and the undead have inherited the Earth. Survivors remain, though, small bands of men and women who have managed to avoid falling prey to the zombies and the plague known as Blacktide that turned the living into these seemingly mindless, flesh hungry creatures in the first place. For the most part, the book's narrative revolves around a handful of characters including:
David. He's a zombie although he doesn't realize it. However, he is aware that something has gone terribly wrong with the world he once knew. All he has to do is look up to see the pus colored sky overhead, take in the sight of the dead and dying world around him. There's also the rather serious appetite he's developed, one that can only be quelled by consuming a very limited array of disgusting fare. And as if all of this isn't bad enough, he has no idea what has happened to his wife and two young children. Did they somehow manage to escape the nightmare in which he's found himself? Or have they fallen victim to the myriad dangers he's encountered, including the demonic creatures that seem to be hunting him and his kind?
We also have David's twin sister Kate. She spends much of her time holed up at the local elementary school with a few dozen of her fellow survivors. As a ranger, she goes out on supply runs and scouting missions, usually ends up gunning down a few zombies along the way. One day, she quite unexpectedly finds herself in a relationship with another survivor named Marie, a situation that causes her to rethink the way she's been going about her life post-apocalypse, to give her pause and—for the first time in a long time—force her to consider more than her own day to day survival.
And then there is Nicholas. One of Kate's fellow rangers, he hides a dark secret from those he lives with at the elementary school: the fact that he's a full-fledged psychopath and considers himself death incarnate. Now that Blacktide has reduced the number of potential victims at his disposal, he's had to become more creative in finding a release for the particular type of hunger that controls him. Yes, thus far he's managed to satiate his desires but it would the time has arrived for him to take the disturbing games he likes to play to another level.
One of the more interesting aspects of the book is the way in which we get to see the world through David's eyes. From his perspective, he and his fellow zombies are alive and—for the most part—whole while the town around him has become a place of ruin and decomposition. It makes for some striking imagery and leads to some of the book's more memorable sequences. Mr. Waggoner also introduces a touch of mysticism to the proceedings one does not normally find in this type of novel. Overall, THE WAY OF ALL FLESH, while providing plenty of gore and grotesquery sure to appease the diehard fans of this particular subgenre, offers enough in the way of uniqueness and originality to help it stand out from the horde of other zombie novels out there.
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