Thursday, August 20, 2009

Book Review: Season of Rot by Eric S. Brown

Season of Rot is a book from Permuted Press that contains five zombie novellas from Eric S. Brown. I hadn’t experienced any of Brown’s stories before this collection, so I didn’t know quite to expect with Season of Rot. Apparently, Brown is the go-to guy for zombie advice. He’s written five novels: Cobble, Madmen’s Dreams, Unabridged, Unabashed and Undead: The Best of Eric S. Brown and the upcoming World War of the Dead and Barren Earth. Jonathan Maberry even turned to Brown for expert advice for his book Zombie CSU: The Forensics of the Living Dead. Still, even though I am a big fan of Permuted Press I was a bit apprehensive about yet another zombie novel. Luckily, Season of Rot is a fantastic collection of novellas and Brown blew me away with his fast-paced and action-packed stories!

The first novella is entitled Season of Rot, and tells of a group of survivors holed up in the top floors of an abandoned hospital in a high rise building while hoards of the undead crowd around outside. They are running out of supplies and desperately need help…and one day their prayers are answered by a military soldier who promises to come get them and offers them shelter in a military bunker. Yet, this stranger is hiding an awful secret…something that threatens the survivors’ safety.

This was a really gripping, tense story that helped kick off the collection. I really enjoyed the development of the characters (even though most of them have short life spans in the story) and just from this one story I could tell I was in for a treat with Brown’s tales. It immediately threw me into the action and I got all caught up in the ensuing chaos. Plus, I really enjoyed the story of the stranger who suddenly appears and the frightening “transformation” of the undead.

The next short is titled The Queen, and it is my favorite of the novellas. To escape the zombies that have overtaken the world, a group of survivors live aboard a ship called The Queen. When they are low on supplies, they must risk heading to shore and facing the undead…but now it appears that the zombies are getting smarter and are learning to operate machinery…like boats and guns…

The Queen has it all – well-developed characters, a frightening concept (smart zombies?! Lord help us!) and lots of bloody action. I really liked how Brown started with three different stories of survivors, all horrific in their own right (one of them involves the zombies breeding humans for meat!), and then meshed them all together with the survivors meeting at The Queen. The ship setting definitely made it stand out from the standard post-apocalyptic tale and made it much more unique and exciting. Also, the fact that the zombies were smart made it all that more terrifying.

The Wave was next, which features a mysterious wave of energy covering the Earth and disrupting all electronic devices…oh, and turning most of the population into bloodthirsty animals. All forms of communication are down, there is no power and cars, flashlights, etc. don’t work. A small band of survivors head to an isolated military bunker, but with the infected closing in they must make one final stand for humanity…even with the chance that the mysterious wave of energy may have adversely affected the Earth’s sun.

With an unexpected, devastating ending, The Wave definitely had a strong impact. I love how Brown focused on several different survivors in several different locations (with some of them coming together for the finale). The infected are also smart in this one, tricking the survivors and making them give away their location. The infected can also move very fast, a situation that actually makes sense considering the radiation they were exposed to. Overall, The Wave is a very well-done, edge-of-your-seat story with a seriously downbeat, bleakly realistic ending.

Next is Dead West, where the undead have overtaken the Wild West and are eating their way to the eastern part of the United States. Only the Mississippi River stands in their way of eating through the East. A reporter is dispatched to ride into the front-lines of the war to find out just what is happening, but will he be able to make it back at all?

I really enjoyed the Wild West feel of Dead West, but I wish it had felt a little more historical. Take out the horses and it could have just been another zombie story. I just don’t feel that Brown captured that Wild West feel adequately enough. Besides that, though, there is plenty of zombie action to satisfy most undead fans. One particular scene involving undead orphans attacking the cavalry is priceless!

The last story of the collection is Rats. Rats have overtaken the country and command the undead to do their bidding. A group of survivors fights to get to safety, but will the rats be able to reach anywhere they try to hide?

I really loved this story, though I feel the awkward intro could have been left out as it is never mentioned again in the rest of the novella. The rats in question are scary, and there is an underlying theme of demons that gives this end of the world story even more oomph!

Season of Rot on the whole is an exciting, fast-paced read that handles various post-apocalyptic scenarios with gritty realism. The grim outlook feels far more realistic than any false hope survivors would experience in a real-life scenario. Season of Rot is an intense read that really makes me look forward to future novels from Eric S. Brown. This is post-apocalyptic fiction at its breakneck best!

Order it on Amazon!

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