Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Becoming review

     Two men, one woman, all badass.

    The Becoming is a novel about three very capable people in a zombie apocalypse. For those tired of individuals stumbling over themselves trying to deal with basic tasks when the undead come knocking, it's a welcome relief to have a Marine, cop, and Israeli Defense Force sniper. If you like The Walking Dead's Michonne and Rick more than Lori, you're going to find this enjoyable.

    The Becoming is a much more action-intense novel than the majority of the zombie novels I've read in my time. Jessica Meigs has a very cinematic-style which I think would translate well to the small (or big) screen. The book is filled with tense well-described chase sequences, memorable zombie-encounters, and tense character reactions to the frequently degenerating situation around them.

    The premise is a typical-enough zombie apocalypse outbreak. There's a disease (presumably being studied by the CDC) which breaks out in Atlanta before spreading across the globe. Two of our main heroes are in Memphis when things go south and the third joins up later--leaving them to deal with the daily issues of survival and the undead as is traditional. What's similar to many other zombie books is alright.

    What's different is where this book shines.

    The first thing is Jessica Meigs makes some small changes to her zombies which blur the line between them and Infected. It's a horrifying revelation that, instead of being completely mindless, the zombies of her world are possessed of animal levels of intelligence. This means they strategize, hunt, and learn from their mistakes. It makes things much more tense to know zombies are actively hunting you.

    The second is the focus on the transformation the intense trauma of events has on people. I originally thought she was setting up the character of Ethan, an ex-police officer, to be the "good" one of the main trio and Marine deserter Brandt to be the "amoral" one. To use another Walking Dead-ism, Rick vs. Shane.

    In fact, Ethan becomes far more ruthless as the Zombie Apocalypse continues because he has lost his family and has nothing to live for while Brandt's enlightened selfishness has him act altruistically because that's just sensible. The fact both of these positions make perfect sense but aren't the kind of writing choices you normally see pleased me.

    The stand-out character of the novel is certainly Cade, however. The Israeli soldier is visiting with Ethan's family when everything goes to hell and goes almost immediately into survival mode. Female action heroes are nothing new since the 1980s, God bless those who write them, but they're still relatively rare. Cade is an excellent addition to the ranks of folk like Sarah Connor and Ripley, serving as the "center" between Ethan and Brandt's extreme positions.

    Individuals wondering whether or not this will turn into a love-triangle situation need not worry. While there is a small amount of sexual tension, which seems realistic under the circumstances, I like how the author makes it clear their only real concern is survival. Ironically, despite being the unromantic lover of carnage I am, I hope to see some possibilities on that front bloom.

    One area which the book excels is moral choices. While all zombie stories usually have some sort of ambiguity to them, just look at Night of the Living Dead, Jessica Meigs is not afraid to have her heroes act in a manner which calls into question our heroes' consciences.

    This can range from robbing a gun store during the early days of the apocalypse to seriously questioning whether they can afford to take on other survivors due to limited supplies. Other members of the cast get in on the action but, ultimately, it's about the three very different attitudes expressed by the leads.

    In conclusion, I liked The Becoming. It was a nice breath of fresh air to the more depressing stories I'd read about the end of the world. Horrible things happen in The Becoming and I almost removed a entire point for a young child's fate, but our heroes aren't stupid, which is something we've had way too much of in survival situations.

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