Friday, July 18, 2014

What Zombies Fear: The Maxists

    What Zombies Fear is a series by Kirk Allmond which inverts many of the usual zombie-apocalypse tropes. Instead of being books about scared, desperate, and lonely survivors--it's a book about low-leveled superpowered humans kicking undead ass while rebuilding society. The zombies are intelligent parasitic aliens inhabiting corpses, providing a motivation behind their attack. They need bodies, we have them, and they're going to take them.

    For some, this may distract from the zombie narrative. Unintelligent zombies make the resulting apocalypse seem more like a natural disaster while this is very much a case of evil beings doing evil things. However, part of what I enjoy about this series is it's different. Too many novels attempt to George Romero over and over again.

    The science fiction elements are something I appreciated. We learn the origin of the invadion this book and while I object to the manner its conveyed (see below), I'm glad Kirk Allmond explained his zombies' origin. The premise of The Maxists is that Victor Tookes, the titular being which zombies fear, has just defeated a massive herd of zombies. One the size of a small city. This has caused the remnants of the United States military as well as the zombies to sit up and take notice.

    Victor has no love for the United States government, blaming them for failing to protect the world (which is cruel given the majority of its soldiers DIED fighting the zombie menace), and finds the attempts by Colonel Fryes to bring his group under its purview to be offensive. Given Victor and the rest of his secessionist state have superpowers, it's not something the US remnant can pressure them on.

    I was intrigued by this plotline and am saddened the United States remnant comes off as a duplicitous bunch of scumbags . I was hoping there would be room for moral ambiguity in The Maxists but, sadly, that is not the case. Victor and his settlement are not only in disagreement with them but in the moral right. The United States remnant has reasons for acting the way they do but, bluntly, I find it difficult to imagine any reader will sympathize with them by the end.

    A major subplot of the book also deals with Victor's precocious son, Max, who has developed possibly the most useful power in the world--the ability to control zombies. As one might guess, this makes him the most important three-year-old in the world. The chapters from his perspective are the most enjoyable part of the book, in my opinion.

    I loved watching Max and his 'pet' zombies move through the world with an innocent perspective of what's going on. The terrifying potential of his abilities is also explored in interesting ways that reminded me of how a young Charles Xavier must have been.

    As before, much of the book is about action and acquiring supplies to rebuild human civilization--or, at least, Victor's small part of it. Zombies are rarely a threat to Victor and his group, which, after thousands of movies have portrayed them as invincible in great numbers--is cathartic. While Victor isn't up there with Ashley Williams of the Evil Dead franchise yet, he's still a good candidate for the zombie slayer.

    My only problem with the book is the introduction, really, where Victor explains how the zombie/alien invasion began as well as what the source of his superpowers is. While a great piece of exposition and world-building, there's never an explanation how the hell Victor knows any of this. I think the book would have been improved if we'd been given an explanation how he knew this or just had it given to us by an omniscient narrator.

    I think the What Zombies Fear remains a fun little series about a guy who has a great deal of luck kicking zombie butt. It's an independence fantasy, showing the post-apocalyptic world as a place where a person might be able to build a new life as well as a more equitable world.

    I don't believe an actual apocalypse would be anything like this as I'm quite fond of my creature comforts and the benefits of civilization but I can understand the appeal of the daydream. I will, however, continue reading the books and expect them to remain about the same level of quality, which is excellent light-reading.


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