Wednesday, September 2, 2015
In 2032, the zombie apocalypse is a thing of the past. Zombies haven't been seen in years and life has gotten back to normal. Josh is fascinated with them and plays a virtual zombie killing game with his friend Firecracker every chance he gets. The game is based in reality and features a militia that torches zombies with flamethrowers. Josh is steadily rising in the ranks, but has to hide his gaming because his parents think it's in bad taste. He is approached by the best player in the game to play in real life with a team of teen torchers and cybernetic zombies. Josh is eager to play and doesn't notice that things just don't add up. He's just happy to earn some money and do what he enjoys without thought that the guy who runs the event is into some shady stuff and all isn't what it seems.
Z is one of a growing category of books where the zombie apocalypse has already happened and people have moved on. This zombie disease is a flu that attacks the higher brain functions and strengthens the base functions or "lizard brain." Zombies aren't the undead, but people who fail to process pain and are taken over by animalistic instincts. By the time Josh is born, a vaccine has been developed that everyone gets at birth. There are still a lot of dilapidated locations, but most of civilization is back to normal and thriving. This was only mentioned in passing, but biological animals seem to be endangered, but the extent is unclear.
Josh is a typical, middle class kid with typical problems and susceptible to peer pressure. He is obsessed with playing the virtual reality torcher game where he is viewed as a rising star. He hides his gaming activity because his mom made her feelings perfectly clear. His own aunt was one of the earliest people to turn into a zombie and his mom takes offense to her horrifying reality being made into a game. Like a typical teen, he doesn't think about others very much. Throughout the novel, he blindly stumbles into dangerous situations with only thoughts of fun. He joins the real life torcher tournament and doesn't believe the danger is real. In fact, he doesn't think to question anything at all. He takes a drug called Z that makes him act bit zombie-ish for a while and doesn't think anything of it when he attacks random strangers on the street or digs into raw meat with furvor. I found him pretty annoying for the most part until the very end.
I have a problem with the core concept of this book. Why use flamethrowers to subdue zombies? I get that it prevents the spread of the disease, but it should really be used when the zombie is already down for the count. Flamethrowers are not good melee weapons at all. Zombies do not go down automatically when set on fire. It could take a while for them to die, so it's pretty dangerous for everyone around and whatever building they happen to be in to use flamethrowers. I'm not sure why the game, the history, or the real life game torchers didn't just have regular guns to use in tandem with the flamethrowers. The dangers of fire in enclosed spaces and to other humans is mentioned a few times, but no one ever thinks of simple solutions to the problem.
Z is a bit of a disappointment. It's been on my shelf for a while and I had high hopes. The world is interesting and the narrative flows, but Josh is pretty awful and the main concept doesn't make much sense. The ending is a bit abrupt and ends in the middle of a scene, which annoys me. It's wide open for a sequel, but so far there is none. I would give the next book a chance because I enjoy Michael Thomas Ford's writing.
My rating: 3/5 fishmuffins