It's like The Real World meets The Walking Dead.
If this combination intrigues you, you should check out this novel. If it sends you screaming in the other direction, then you should not. Keep Your Crowbar Handy attempts to do something different with the zombie genre and for more than half the book is a subversion of your typical post-apocalyptic tale.
Our protagonists manage to be impossibly lucky and have the right combination of people to not only survive the initial outbreak but know a Doomsday prepper who was rich as well as paranoid enough to build a house-sized fallout shelter. In terms of the zombie apocalypse, it is the equivalent of winning the lottery five times in a row.
Except, of course, our protagonists are all twenty-somethings with a couple of middle-aged adults shoved together with nowhere to go. Worse, is the slow dawning realization no one is coming to rescue them. As George Romero's movies show, the biggest danger in this sort of situation isn't zombies but your fellow survivors.
I was back and forth on the book for much of the first half until I realized just what S.P. Durnin was doing. It's a story which works on a slow burn and has a nice element of satire to it. Our protagonists are beautiful, young, hedonistic folk who would be right at home on MTV with the exception they're all badass zombie-slayers. I'll get more into this later but this is what lends the book its unique feel.
The book takes place in a sort of exaggerated zombie-slaying video-game or humorous action movie universe where everyone is tough and sexy but acts like the kind of person you'd meet at the mall. Even one-chapter characters like Tracy are entertaining this way.
Our protagonist, Jake, is a laid back hipster who just happens to be an ex-SAS soldier, anime geek, book editor, fabulous lover, and all-round nice guy. He's accompanied by Kat and Laurel who are without his special training but possess equal toughness.
One has a sword.
And no, it's not a polygamy situation--a pity, too, since I actually think it'd make sense in this case. Last man on Earth and all that. Keep Your Crowbar Handy is the sort of book where it's less important that the end of the world is happening outside than events have forced a bunch of people together in a tiny space they can't leave. Boredom and abrasive personalities are the biggest dangers for the first half of the book.
That changes in the second half of the book.
I can't say this is realistic as you'd think one of them would wonder if their family had been horrifically killed. However, it fits with the book's metaphor, which is the zombie-apocalypse is pretty much your twenties. You're forced to with impossible situations and a large scary world but as long as you're in your apartment, you're safe. That is, of course, until the food runs out and you need to go into the Big Bad WorldTM to keep the lights on.
I liked the metaphor in Shaun of the Dead and this is a more glamorized take on it. Our protagonists are taken care of by their metaphorical parents, carrying their asses, while they're too busy enjoying themselves.
I will say the author went overboard making Jake a sort of living god of idealized Generation Y manhood and spent too much time focusing on who was sleeping with who over the flesh-eating monsters outside. However, it's hard to fault the author too much because I liked the characters and their romances.
Those more interested in apocalyptic action and zombie-slaying also only half to wait for the latter half of the book to get their fill. While the first half is mostly action-less with one extended chase scene, the second is wall-to-wall undead murder. Kat, Jake, and Laurel earn their monster hunter credentials.
Keep Your Crowbar Handy is a quirky-quirky book and I enjoyed reading it. I loved the characters, too, and recognize all of their are true-to-life in their personalities. They're sexy as hell too. Hell, I married a girl like Kat (also named Kat weirdly enough). The humor in the book is great and there are large segments where I became invested in the personal struggles of our heroes.
A lot of people have attempted to do the same zombie apocalypse over and over again. A bunch of survivors are slowly picked off one by one until the survivors bleakly move on. Keep Your Crowbar Handy is not that book. It's a book which a girl with a Hello Kitty tattoo and sword slays a bunch of zombies before getting into an argument about her boyfriend's ex.
Which is great.
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