Here we go again. Much like Pray To Stay Dead, the first selection in Creeping Hemlock Press’s zombie ebook “Print Is Dead” series, World In Red will make you realize that there’s still some great, original ideas to be squeezed out of the genre that Romero built. Every time you think you’re out…
You couldn’t find two more different books either. While both deal with a zombie apocalypse and both feature disturbing scenes far beyond what you’re likely to find in mainstream press, World In Red is a much more personal story. Two of them, in fact.
Before things go to hell we’re introduced to one Bohdin Robichaux. This strangely-named man is on a last-minute flight back home to New Orleans, trying to race home to get to his wife before she gives birth to their second son.
He’s not going to make it.
Right before the plane touches down the pilot gives them distressing news. Homeland Security has shut down the airport due to an outbreak of some sort, and all flight have been grounded. Folks with connecting flights grumble but Bohdin is just happy he made it in time before the shutdown. As they pour out of the airplane they enter a mass of disgruntled people who are becoming increasingly mad at the airport staff and security for the lack of information. The crowd soon turns its attention to the news reports on tv and see- you guessed it, the dead coming back to life and eating people. There’s a mad mob of a people and a near-riot when cops try to prevent anyone from leaving the airport, but Bohdin manages to escape out of a smashed door after shots are fired and the crowd panics. Scrambling to find his friend Maurice who’s supposed to pick him up (and who he smartly texted while everyone else’s cell phones were tied up) Bohdin finally spots Maurice yelling and waving by his car. Bohdin runs over and stops when he realizes that his best friend has a pistol in hand and is absolutely covered in blood, accompanied by a woman- not his wife- that’s holding a baby. When Bohdin realizes what happened he doesn’t take it well, and things just get worse from there.
Actually, that’s one helluva understatement. Things don’t get worse, they keep getting worse, and worse, and worse… and then even worse, till your mouth is open in shock and you’re pleading with the sadistic author (John Sebastian Gorumba) to just leave his characters be. You’ll really wonder what they possibly did to him to be treated this badly. I hate to draw comparisons to Cormac McCarthy’s modern classic (never fair to compare anyone to Cormac, really) but this is probably the most relentlessly bleak book I’ve read since The Road.
Over the next few chapters you’ll find out what Maurice went through to get to the airport and then follow the survivors as they try to figure out where to head and what to do when they get there. You just have no idea what these people are in for.
As for the zombies, they’ve got their own little twist. It’s hard to tell the living from the dead, except for the fact that dead ones spit up black bile before rising. This is because relatively intact zombies keep a decent bit of intelligence and speed, and some can even talk, when they’re not running people down. Corpses that have been shot in the head or really damaged behave much more like the Of the Deadzombies we’re all used to, slow and stupid and dangerous in packs. Fast, slow, this book’s got something for everyone.
I’d also just like to add that as a relatively new father, this book played me like a fucking puppet. I’m not sure if Gorumba has a kid but he certainly knows exactly what parents go through from the hospital on, all the little things they worry about and have to deal with. The book takes that little nervous feeling of “Am I doing the right thing?” and the wondrous feeling of “Holy shit, this is MY kid! I must keep it alive!” and pushes it to a whole other intensity thanks to its setting. There are many, many chapters here that people will find hard to get through, parents especially.
All that said, sometimes I felt that the relentless pace actually hurts the story. Maurice has a completely separate arc from Bohdin that’s equally horrific in whole other ways that I won’t spoil for you, but the way things just keeps piling up on top of these two characters almost threaten to make it comical, and some of the stuff is a little hard to swallow… no pun intended. There comes a point when you’re past being shocked and horrified and just want to see it over with, or at least for the story to hit a different note, but it’ll keep plucking along for quite a while.
But along with Pray to Stay Dead (which I reviewed here) this is yet another novel from a first-time writer that Creeping Hemlock has completely impressed me with. I’m as tired of zombies as anyone and I’ve opened each of these books with a bit of trepidation before getting completely sucked in. Kudos to them for keeping the genre alive (uh).
World In Red is available both as a five buck ebook (for Kindle and Nook) and a 15 buck paperback, those things you used to read that are made out of trees. You can read a 100-page preview of the book right here.