She was in Orlando once, when she was little, and she remembers standing at the bottom of this terrific tall building and thinking that civilization’s got some crackerjack people working for its furtherance, and kicking at the base of the building with her foot to see if the whole thing could topple over, and seeing that it didn’t and never ever would. The Reapers Are The Angels, Alden Bell
Sometimes, dead is better. Pet Cemetary, Stephen King
I’ve always believed actions speak louder than words. People will defend someone, call them a great guy… despite their criminal record and penchant for getting in fights and stealing from friends. If your actions, ie: your choices, wreak pain and devastation on people, you are not a nice guy, I don’t care how great your sense of humor is, or how much fun you are at a party. As the Oracle in The Matrix told us, it’s all about choices. The same can be said for a character. Readers are like voyeurs, sitting back and watching what characters do and learning about them by their actions. You see a little girl kick the base of an enormous structure to see if she could topple it. You wonder what sort of person would do that. And her name being Temple makes you wonder about how sturdy and immovable her own base is. Here is the link to Goodreads and the blurb.
Zombies have infested a fallen America. A young girl named Temple is on the run. Haunted by her past and pursued by a killer, Temple is surrounded by death and danger, hoping to be set free.
For twenty-five years, civilization has survived in meager enclaves, guarded against a plague of the dead. Temple wanders this blighted landscape, keeping to herself and keeping her demons inside her heart. She can’t remember a time before the zombies, but she does remember an old man who took her in and the younger brother she cared for until the tragedy that set her on a personal journey toward redemption. Moving back and forth between the insulated remnants of society and the brutal frontier beyond, Temple must decide where ultimately to make a home and find the salvation she seeks.
When we meet Temple, she’s living on a small spit of land with a lighthouse on it, off the coast of Florida. She’s clearly self-sufficient, feeding and caring for herself, a bit world weary. She seems young, with an eye for beauty, despite a lack of education and all her worldly smarts. Then a “slug” washes up on the beach. She knows her time on the island wouldn’t be forever, and with the swing of the tide, the distance between the mainland and her respite is becoming traversable by the shambling remains. She’ll have to move on, but first, she goes to inspect the visitor. It’s stuck in the sand and motionless, but when it becomes clear it’s alive, she has a sort of one sided discussion with it. It’s lower jaw has been torn off, so it’s harmless. It’s odd. We’re used to people running like hell from zombies, but in this world, though numerous, the numbers of zombies don’t seem overwhelming.
Sadly, Temple was born after the plague, or whatever it was that set the dead to rise – and much of what we take for granted, like reading, cotton candy, and living in one place with a house and friends and family, are beyond her experience. Temple is not a simple creature that just fights for life – she stops to wonder at beauty and what has been lost, and what would have continued if humanity’s discoveries and wonders hadn’t been brought to a stop. At one point, I wrote in my notes that she wasn’t very sophisticated…and then laughed at myself for looking for sophistication in a zombie book. Her thoughts tell us she is haunted by her past, and she thinks of herself as some sort of monster, an inhuman machine. Her choices tell us she isn’t. She finds a big galoot of a man running down the road of a suburban area, followed by zombies and carrying the body of an old woman. The man appears mentally challenged, and instead of just rolling on by, she goes back and helps him. She drives past a weird creature along a forested road, and out of curiosity, she stops to check it out. Both of these things have drastic consequences, of course, or we wouldn’t be in a zombie book.
I did have a problem with a few things. First of all, how are these vehicles she finds and gets going still working? Where is the gas coming from? The hordes have been shambling for about 25 years, and there is still gas and electricity in unpopulated places. One episode of “Life After People” teaches us this would not be the case. It would not take very long for the power grid to fold or even to cause massive fires. Even with the small population actually still alive and undead, before the zombies affected the numbers of the living, there would have been problems with supply. Mass exodus would have drained the food and fuel supplies in most areas as people tried to flee. And how is it the batteries in the cars aren’t dead? The state of the remaining cities and towns is also too tame. As Life After People teaches us, it will take no time at all for mother nature to undo what we have wrought. After 25 years, subdivisions won’t just be overgrown, they would revert to forest, jungle, barely recognizable. But those are quibbles.
This book tore me up. It’s not sweet and fluffy, but who reads dystopia or apocalypse tales to feel all cheery? Be prepared with the tissues. The writing in this is amazing. I am going to leave you with a spoiler free taste of what this has to offer. It was hard to not pepper this review with bits and snippets, so I’m indulging in a rather longish quote. I highly recommend this.
A slug dressed in black with a white preacher’s collar lifts his hands toward the sky as if calling upon the god of dead things, while a rotting woman in a wedding dress sits open-legged against a wall, rubbing the lace hem against her cheek. Here, the monstrous and the perverse, the like of which Temple has never seen before. A slug with no arms nestled up against he swollen belly of a corpse recently dead, chewing away at its exposed viscera like a piglet at the teat of its mother. These, the desperate and the plagued, driven to consume beyond their usual ken – a swarm of them pulling apart a dead horse with their hands, using their teeth to scrape the offal from the backside of the bristly skin. Some even so bubbling with abomination that they turn on one another, by instinct preying on the weak, pulling them down, the children and the old ones, digging their teeth first into the fleshiest parts to give their clawing fingers some purchase, a mob of them backing a pale-faced girl against the concrete base of a building. She opens her mouth to defend herself, sinks her teeth into the arm of one of her attackers, but there are more, a groaning howling brood like coyotes on the concrete plain. And, too, a carnival of death, a grassy park near the city center, a merry-go-round that turns unceasing hour by hour, its old-time calliope breathing out dented and rusty notes while the slugs pull their own arms out of the sockets trying to climb aboard the moving platform, some disembodied limbs dragging in the dirt around and around, hands still gripping the metal poles-and the ones who succeed and climb aboard, mounting to the top of the wooden horses, joining with the endless motion of the machine, dazed to imbecility by gut memories of speed and human ingenuity. And the horde, in the blackout of the city night, illumined only by the headlights of the car, everywhere descending and roiling against one another like maggots in the belly of a dead cat, the grimmest and most degenerate manifestation of this blighted humanity on this blighted earth – beasts of our lost pasts, spilling out of whatever hell we have made for them like the army of the damned, choked and gagging and rotted and crusty and eminently pathetic, yes, brutally, conspicuously, outrageously pathetic.