Saturday, September 30, 2017

This Dark Earth

The story starts right as the zombie outbreak starts. Lucy is a doctor who usually stays on the analysis side of things and avoids "wet work" which is working directly with patients. The hospital is overcrowded with sick people in various stages of the disease and she barely escapes when they get violent. Lucy flags down a truck driven by Knock Out and they try to drive as far away as possible before the nuclear bomb was finally dropped. Now, Lucy and Knock Out try to survive and avoid as much radiation and zombies as possible to save her son and then later run a semblance of civilization together.

This Dark Earth spans years of time and interlocking stories with different points of view. The first story is about Lucy and Knock Out's journey to find Lucy's son Gus. Lucy is my favorite character of the whole book and I wish the entire book was from her perspective. She has an analytical mind and no bedside manner. Cancer and other diseases are fascinating to her and she often forgets in her excitement that it's attached to a person. Her first instinct with the overcrowded hospital is that it's her responsibility to help them. Throughout the book, she never stops helping people, but tends to cut off her emotions as useless. Her head is clear through most of them novel except when she kills her zombie husband, an enormously tragic event. Knock Out is like the other half of Lucy's puzzle. He feels emotions when she can't. He isn't as smart or educated, but he can protect them physically as a large man with strength. His ego doesn't come into it at all and he isn't afraid to defer to Lucy if he knows she's better at something like shooting a gun. They become a couple later, but this establishment of their relationship shows how they interact, support each other, and fit together.

The second story is from the point of view of Tessa, an African American woman serving a military unit while plotting her revenge. She knew how to manipulate the men and it doesn't take much to get them to underestimate her. I found her storyline problematic in a multitude of ways. First, she doesn't physically fight the sexual abuse, so she's branded as a whore. Her daughter did fight and the soldiers killed her. Tessa is only doing what she can to survive while she slowly poisons the leader. Afterwards, someone else takes command and bans any sexual activity whatsoever, even if it's consensual with implications that she should control her urges and she is partly at fault for the abuse. In addition, the men are never called out or punished for literally enslaving and raping a woman and killing other women for noncompliance. Lastly, her fate is a bit riculous after all she's been through. I found the chapter very uncomfortable and hypocritical compared to what happens.

The third story picks up three years later and the zombies still haven't rotted away. Gus, Lucy's son, is 14 and growing into a leadership position at the council, a dictator group that makes all the decisions for Bridge City. The group treats people like people, but the council makes all decisions. I honestly hate Gus, but, like Carl in the Walking Dead, his development is warped due to living with zombies and the changed world. He's emotionally detached and doesn't see a huge difference between killing zombies and killing humans. His intelligence greatly benefited Bridge City as many of his ideas work and are implemented. They also broadcast helpful information like how to purify water, but it proves to lead enemies to their door. His arrogance is eventually punished when he and a group try to lead thousands of zombies to a group of slavers. It was a unique idea, but one with huge risk and it didn't pay off.

There are a few other stories that were exciting, but I won't go into them due to spoilers. This Dark Earth is a unique zombie novel that follows one group through many eyes. The ending definitely leaves it open for another book, but one hasn't been made yet. The only problem I had, besides Tessa and Gus, were the huge gaps between stories. I would have loved to see how Bridge City was established and how they became the ruling council. Other than that, This Dark Earth is very different from the usual zombie story and definitely worth your time.

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins

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