I love the zombie genre. All of it. From Romero to Kirkman, it’s all great. So, I was very excited to receive the assignment to review an early draft of Zombified: Book 1: The Head Hunter by author Kindra Sowder with (“The Walking Dead” alumni) Santiago Cirilo.
Before we dive in, let me start by breaking down the key elements that make a good narrative: Characters, Plot, and Story.
Yes, Other Todd?
Aren’t Plot and Story the same thing?
No, Other Todd. And that’s why I never invite you anywhere. ‘Cause you’re a big dum-dum.
The difference between plot and story is simply this…
Plot is what happens, Story is why it happens OR what it all means.
Do you have any examples?
I sure do, Other Todd. Please stop hijacking my article!
We all know and love the Star Wars franchise. There are a ton of great characters. Whiny Farm-boy. Weirdly Affectionate Teacher. Broke Pirate. Non-threatening Gay Couple. Badass Princess. You get the idea. The plot of Star Wars can be summed up with “Intergalactic Civil War.” The story of Star Wars, however is much deeper; a boy accepts his past and redeems his father to make a better future. It’s the classic “Hero’s Journey” archetype, in perhaps its most popular example of this generation.
An example of a popular narrative that DIDN’T follow these same guidelines and suffered for it is ABC’s LOST. Characters out the corn-hole. Piled to the peak with plot. But they took six seasons to tell me “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey”? If that’s the case, my father yelling at me that “We’ll get there when we get there!” on those family road trips finally makes sense.
Kindra Sowder and Santiago Cirilo really bring us into their world by writing some really great characters right off the bat. The Meldanos’ are an ordinary, yet intriguing, family when they are suddenly and painfully thrust into the new future. Misty’s loss of her mother makes us mourn and cheer for her throughout. And Mark and Joshua are definitely the Smothers Brothers that I want to see more of. Think a toned-down Simon Pegg and Nick Frost in…well, pretty much anything.
Not to give anything away, but when the story jumps ahead seven years after ‘the incident’ is when things start to get REALLY interesting. Let’s just say, G.O.D. and Faith play big BIG roles in not only the plot, but also the story. The latter being a bit weaker than the former.
The creatures in this adventure are not strictly zombies as the title might have you believe. To me all four (yes, four) species sound more akin to vampires than strictly zombies. Created by a serum that its creator hopes will one day cure everything that ails you. Eventually the Government Of Defense (connecting some dots?) uses it as a reason to essentially enslave the human population.
That has all the makings of some great plot, but the idea that Faith in the Government brings nothing but disaster seems a bit contrived…if that’s the intended story.
About 2/3 of the way through, is when there’s a shift in the telling from building characters/a world to action, Action, ACTION! On the whole, the pacing of this book is a bit uneven. I’d be reading a drawn out character moment and then smash cut to an action scene. It does not have a very consistent flow. I hope that Sowder and Cirilo eventually turn their combined talents towards a more visual medium like comics or even indie film (which Cirilo is already known for, of course) because this would make a really solid adaptation.
The Bottom Line:
I’d definitely recommend this book to anyone I know who enjoys Young Adult monster fiction. But, I’m not sure I’d suggest this to a casual zombie enthusiast. Really it’s all about your own personal taste there. If I had to give this thumbs-up or down, I’d have to give it a thumbs down. I wasn’t blown away by it, but it was interesting enough for me to stick with it to the end. If I’m rating each element and this was like RottenTomatoes I’d give it a 65-70% fresh. As I stated earlier, Sowder and Cirilo create some great characters and give them plenty to do, but the why is a bit muddled to me. I feel like there are a lot of places to go in later installments of this story and hope that the skipped seven years will eventually be explored as well.
Look for Zombified Book 1: The Head Hunter by Kindra Sowder and Santiago Cirilo later this year, and feel free to leave your BRAAAIIINSSS in the comment section below.
– Todd A. Davis
Staff Writer: Nerd Nation Magazine