Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Book Review: Thunder and Ashes by Z.A. Recht

These days, zombie stories are a dime a dozen. It seems that just about every other horror book out there is about the walking dead. Authors must continually work harder to bring their fans something new and something they can really sink their teeth into.

Amidst all the zombie fiction, Z.A. Recht has unleashed his new installment in the Morningstar Strain series, entitled Thunder and Ashes. Thunder and Ashes is the sequel to Plague of the Dead and picks up three months after the end of the first book.

In this post-apocalyptic tale, most of humanity has been wiped out by the virulent Morningstar Strain, a virus that turns the infected into raging, cannibalistic flesh-eaters and reanimates the dead! Only small groups of survivors remain. One of these is a group of soldiers and civilians lead by General Sherman who is fighting its way across the country to get to Omaha to meet up with Dr. Anna Demillio, who may have the answer to infection.

Besides battling hordes of the undead, they must also fight off raiders who would kill them just for their supplies and a group of rogue government agents who are determined to kidnap Dr. Demillio so they can lay claim to her research for the vaccine.

Thunder and Ashes is a straightforward zombie tale that avoids social commentary or philosophical meanderings for a more direct and visceral approach. It’s a perfect summer read for when you need something that doesn’t require much thought (hey, I mean that in a good way!) and are just looking for some action to fill your time. We are treated to lots of skirmishes, not just with zombies (though those are fun, too) but also with other human beings. There is one passage in particular where the group lead by General Sherman faces off against a bunch of bandits and raiders that reminded me of a good ol’ Western shoot ‘em up!

The gore is also pretty cool throughout. There is everything from bloody zombie attacks to gunshot wounds to bombs going off and so on…All in all, lots of action going on most of the time! I also enjoyed how author Recht used both fast infected (“sprinters”) as well as slow, reanimated zombies (“shamblers”). The threat of the fast infected really added to the suspense and tension of the book!

On the down side, the character development in the book is weak and pretty much most of the characters are interchangeable. The dialogue all sounds the same and each character doesn’t have a strong enough voice to stand out amidst the large cast of characters. Also, the story isn’t that original and suffers a bit from clich├ęs and stereotypical situations.

Still, Thunder and Ashes is an enjoyable and breezy read for zombie fans, even if you aren’t familiar with Recht’s first book in the series, Plague of the Dead. If you want an easy summer read that features plenty of blood and guts, check out Thunder and Ashes.

Available from Amazon!

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