Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Becoming: Ground Zero


    The Becoming series is an excellent zombie-action novel series. It's lighter than the desperate struggles of The Walking Dead but still has plenty of dark moments. At heart, the biggest difference between The Becoming series and other zombie novels is its heroes know what they're doing. I think it's one of those rare series which would make a good action movie or video game.

    Ground Zero has the premise of our heroes being tracked down by a woman who claims to have heard of their efforts to rescue survivors over the past year. Avi Gellar is a reporter who wants to go back to the city of Atlanta, the first city overrun by the living dead, in order to find out the secrets of the Michaluk virus held in the CDC. Each of the three major protagonists has their own reason for not wanting to do this but know the promise of some insight which might save humanity is too important not to risk.

    Before I get into the positives, I will say there was one thing that bothered me about this introduction. I feel like I've missed a book or, at least, a novella. The survivors were barely hanging on at the end of The Becoming. They were a ragtag band of misfits who weren't even sure there were any other survivors but they've since morphed into a kind of Thunderbirds rescue squadron. They're even famous, to the degree such is possible in a post-apocalyptic world.

    The book eventually clarifies that there's a remnant of the United States government and while the zombie apocalypse is everywhere, it's not a case that human extinction is on the table just yet but humanity is "at war." I would have liked this little bit of world-building to have been brought up earlier but I understand the author wanting to keep the focus tight on the survivors. Still, I had to wonder why everyone spoke of Atlanta like it was Mordor as opposed to just one of many cities overrun with the living dead.

    Once we get past these quibbles, I've got to say I enjoyed this installment of the series. One of the appeals of The Becoming series is the abundance of Alpha men and women all locked together in one small group. Watching the protagonists gradually get on each others last nerve is entertaining and the amount of character development in this book is tremendous.

    Jessica Meigs doesn't draw out the Cade/Ethan/Brandt love triangle and definitively answers the question of who is with who early on. I can't say I'm pleased with the answer but they're not my characters and that's what fanfic is for.

    Ground Zero brings to prominence the character of Remy, a woman almost as tough and dangerous as Cade but possessed of a death-wish. While I find the attraction of so many male characters in the book to her inexplicable, I found her to be an entertaining addition. Action novels and horror need more kickass female heroines and Remy certainly fits the bill, even if I don't think she's as impressive as Cade.

    Zombie enthusiasts will be pleased the body count remains high in the novel, including characters I never thought would perish. The zombies, themselves, pose less of a threat to our heroes than disasters and one character dies in a way which is totally unrelated to the apocalypse. I liked this bit of realism. The ending of the novel offers up several answers to existing series questions but poses more. I look forward to the next volume of the series to see where the author will take the characters after this.

     One element that I think deserves to be focused on is Jessica Meigs' handling the subject of failure. Despite our heroes' talents, the group's success is revealed to be precisely because they know to pick-and-choose their battles. Atlanta is something all of them know is disaster waiting to happen but which the rewards outweigh the risks (even when they're the protagonists' lives). Watching the fallout from this decision is the majority of the fun even if the group's in-fighting can get a little tiresome.

8/10

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