Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The End Games

*Mild spoilers.*

Seventeen year old Michael and his younger brother Patrick have had it. Their stepfather is abusive and unpredictable, causing Patrick to have severe psychological problems including catatonia and selfharm. On Halloween night, they decide to run away to show their mother how bad it is for them, but the world coincidentally goes to hell. The dead walk the earth and eat the living. The brothers are stranded in a hostile world full of monsters and have to fend for themselves. Patrick as also only 5 years old and needs to be protected from the horror of this new world. Michael, with ingenuity and not a small amount of lying, successfully keeps them alive and happy for 3 weeks until everything changes. The boys run into other living, normal people and they discover the zombies are changing and evolving. Can Michael and Patrick stay alive and sane through all this craziness?

I love the concept of The End Games. Michael invents a video game scenario and a game master to shield his little brother from the cold, hard reality of the radically changed world. The game master gives them tasks, awards points, and sets the ultimate goal as getting to the safe zone. After three weeks of successfully dodging Bellows, they finally encounter normal people, but all doesn't go as they imagined. They wanted an idyllic reunion with their mom and a perfect, protected world, but what they found was much different and threw the game into chaos. Real life and real people don't follow the rules. These brothers are fully realized, nuanced characters.They tease each other, have their own inside jokes, and have a sense of brotherhood and camaraderie that felt real. The author based this relationship off his own relationship with his little brother and it showed. Their background story, revealed in bits and pieces throughout the novel, is heartbreaking. Hearing the nitty gritty details and seeing the physical and psychological toll the abuse has on Patrick had a much bigger impact on me than I thought it would. I really felt for these boys, related to them, and felt proud that they persevered through the abuse and through the zombie infested world.

I really liked the type of zombies Martin created. Instead of just conventional moaning and groaning, these zombies bellow. These Bellows will latch on to whatever was heard last and repeat it at length, distorting the words and their meaning. This type of zombie is quite dangerous because they can be fairly silent until close to people and then attract other zombies with their loud bellows. I also find it chilling that zombies can speak even if the words have no meaning to them. Imagine having your own distorted words echoed back at you as they close in.

Some of the execution of the novel was lacking for me. Something about the writing would make me feel as if I'd missed something. Some phrases are repeated throughout, but never really explained and I think I know what the author meant but I was never really sure. The main human villain was kind of boring and one dimensional, which was disappointing compared to how well written Patrick and Michael are. Other than these small issues, I felt the novel was very enjoyable.

The End Games is a unique zombie novel with a wonderful fraternal relationship at its core. I would definitely read upcoming books by T. Michael Martin.

My rating: 3/5 fishmuffins

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