On a normal day just like any other, Jenni is making breakfast for her kids, wondering why her abusive husband never came home. Katie is getting ready for court later that day and kissing her girlfriend goodbye. Then disaster strikes and both of their families are torn apart (quite literally). Katie happens upon Jenni as she stands frozen in shock at her zombified children and saves her. Together (along with their dog Jack), the duo become a fierce zombie-killing team and go in search of Jenni’s stepson, who they don’t even know if he’s alive or not. He is trapped at a zombie infested camp ground and they have no idea how many zombies there are or how they will get away. Will they survive their rescue attempt? If so, where can they find a safe place from the zombies?
Rhiannon Frater grabs my attention on the very first page. The first image introduced is tiny, bloody fingers trying to grab Jenni from under her front door. Those fingers belong to her three year old son. If I remember nothing else from this book, that image of tiny, bloody fingers attached to an insatiable three year old zombie will be burned into my brain forever. It’s not surprising that the genesis of the novel came from that one scene. I also like this scene because it sets up the disturbing factor early. If you can’t handle a small child as a zombie, then you should just put down the book now (much like the opening scene in The Walking Dead TV show). Scenes like this and even worse would happen in such an event. Who are you around the most? Your friends and family. Of course you would certainly have to face killing one of them, no matter how young they are, because they are infected and want to eat you.
The characters are realistic, normal people who have found themselves in an extraordinary situation, so they adapt. Jenni was a beaten, empty shell of a person before the zombies. It took a while of being practically catatonic to become fairly normal and then she became a gleeful and adept zombie killer. Her zeal can be a little off putting, but she moved on from her old life and came to be a person without the constant fear of abuse. Each character had their own separate transformations of varying degrees, but I never thought that they grew to be too good. Mistakes are still made and people still die. The only thing I thought was unrealistic was the amount of supplies, weapons, and ammo. Conservation is important and needless wasting is never a good idea. Maybe this will become more of a problem in later books.
Frater’s zombies are normal for the most part. They shuffle, moan, try to eat people. The only different thing is that these zombies grow smarter as the book goes along. I would like to know the zombie science behind it, but no scientists are in their group. For now, I can accept that the virus may be mutating or going into a second stage of infection. I can’t wait to read the next book to see how the virus progresses.
The First Days is a good, solid addition to the zombie genre. I’m interested to see what happens after the initial outbreak and how the remaining survivors deal with sustaining for the long term.
My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins