Review: The First Days
I have Plants vs Zombies on my iPhone. As I read THE FIRST DAYS: AS THE WORLD DIES (Amazon), I’d occasionally switch to my smaller version of the zombie apocalypse. Why? I guess because the story is better.
In a desire for full disclosure you should know this is my first zombie book, even though I’ve watched my share of zombie movies. So I may not be the best judge of this sub-genre. But I do know what makes a book good.
A good book will have characters that interest you. The first pages introduce us to Jenni and Katie as they experience the beginning horror of the zombie apocalypse. Jenni is a young mother in an abusive relationship. Katie is a high-powered attorney in a happy same-sex marriage. When the world begins to fall apart around them, they find each other and somehow survive. We follow them as they save Jenni’s step-son and try to find safety. They start out interesting enough as strong, female characters–which is great in this kind of story. But the strange thing about these characters? They’re hyper aware of their own motivations and behaviors. We get a clunky laundry list of what makes up these women’s personalities, and it was often inconsistent with their actions.
I admit that I love me some romance, but I grew frustrated by THE FIRST DAYS. As soon as the male characters entered the stage, more than fifty percent of the story became about who’s going to get it on with whom (a mere 2 days after the deaths of their loved ones!). The love triangles were forced, the progression of their romantic relationships didn’t feel realistic and brought out inconsistencies in Jenni’s and Katie’s personalities in order to fit the relationship better. We do some have PoV scenes from the romantic interests, Travis and Juan, but their characters lack any real depth, and mostly serve as eye candy. The redeeming thing despite all this is that the women do maintain the strength that helped them survive in the first place–as well as a goofy sense of humor. But in the end it wasn’t enough to make me like them.
A good book will also have good writing. I know that sounds obvious, but I’m referring to the stuff other than the characterization and plot. In other words, a good book won’t have cliche prose, it will have smooth transitions between scenes, the pacing will be steady, there will be a firm sense of the setting, the author won’t have to bludgeon a reader over the head with heavy-handed descriptions of character emotions… THE FIRST DAYS did have some of these good things, but not with any consistency.
To me, the most important thing that makes a book good is the story itself. Frater structures THE FIRST DAYS fine enough, considering all the running around and fighting. However, it was still loosely enough plotted that I had to force myself to keep reading–the story just didn’t grab me. Frater tries for a climax near the end of the book, but after a series of battles against the zombies it’s hard to give the last battle any special significance. Then the resolution that follows meanders with awkward story line tie-offs and ends with an odd epilogue and possible new tensions for book two (/yawn).
If other zombie books out there are like this, I’m glad I haven’t wasted any time on them. However, if enough of you suggest a particular book, I might be persuaded otherwise.
- Recommended Age: 17+
- Language: Tons
- Violence: Gore, blood, body parts flying every which way
- Sex: Mostly referenced; a couple of brief scenes with moderate detail