Thursday, September 10, 2015

Dead of Night

Homer Gibbon is finally being killed after committing a boggling number of heinous murders and other assorted crimes. His body is secretly being transported to a small town in Pennsylvania called Stebbins where his estranged aunt lives. Unfortunately for Stebbins and the world, a prison doctor with a vendetta decides to infect him with a highly contagious parasite that should have caused Gibbons to say aware but immobile as he rots away for years. With this new development, Gibbons escapes and creates a wake of destruction and living death. Nobody understands what's happening until it's much too late. Cops Desdemona Fox and J.T. Hammond plus reporter Billy Trout get thrown into this mess and try to save as many people as they can. Can they stop this horrible plague from spreading throughout the world?

Jonathan Maberry is one of my favorite authors and he somehow became more awesome with Dead of Night. All of the parts of the novel work together to create a terror-filled zombie outbreak. The three main parts are the small town characters, the zombies and Homer Gibbons, and the government. The main small town characters are Dez and Billy Trout. Dez is by far my favorite. She's tough, makes lots of mistakes, and doesn't take any crap from anyone. Out of all the characters, she was most suited to mentally and emotionally dealing with this experience due to her background in the military. Her volatile nature plus her tough exterior (that covers her squishy vulnurability) makes her relatable and complex. She has abandonment and commitment issues and makes huge mistakes, but she does what's right when it counts. Billy Trout is at first glance a sleazy reporter who will do anything and exploit anyone for a story. Over the course of the novel, he's revealed to not be so bad. He willingly goes into danger mostly to save Dez (who doesn't really need saving) and transmit the truth to the public. Both of these characters experience the true horror of killing the people they see every day because they've turned into flesh eating monsters. Dez in particular feels the crushing emotion of having to kill the people she is normally sworn to protect. Too many stories gloss over this and make it seem easy, but it's hard and traumatizing. Maberry captures this horror well even in police officers and war veterans.

The zombies are pretty conventional: eat people, killed by destroying the brain, unsentient, and don't react to pain, but two things make them special: the fact that people are completely aware and the real life basis for the transmission. Each zombie has a normal person screaming inside, immobile and forced to see themselves attack and eat loved ones and neighbors. Lee Hartnup, the very first victim, acts as the representative for the zombified. His inner monologue and suffering is the only one we see of the zombies and it's horrifying. I've only seen this type of zombie once before in Hugh Howe's I, Zombie, which was a series of vignettes. This concept is just as effective in larger plot lines. The method of transmission is different than I've seen. The cause is a distorted kind of toxoplasmosis, which causes the host to spread the parasites at any cost. This mostly includes spitting, biting, really getting any bodily fluid on another person so the larva can be transmitted. Homer Gibbons, patient zero, is different than all the other zombies. He's a bit slow and ungainly, but he has control over his faculties when not taken over by hunger. His insanity and murderous nature make him the worst person possible to give the ability to create and manipulate the zombie apocalypse.

Dead of Night is one of the best zombie books I've read. The characters are amazing, the story is frightening, and I was addicted right from page one. If I had my way, I would have read the whole thing in a sitting, but things like work got in the way. I am eager to get my hands on the sequel because the ending is pretty explosive. I can't wait to see what happens!

My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins

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