The Mesmerized is a horror novel by Rhiannon Frater, author of such fun works as Pretty When She Dies and The Tale of the Vampire Bride. Much as with other works in her bibliography, it stars a female heroine who is highly competent and slightly outlier from the rest of society. In this case, Minji is a good deal more integrated into society than the typical Frater-heroine in that she's "only" a Korean American tattoo artist mother of two.
The premise is basically a take on the zombie apocalypse of so many other stories, only removing one of the central elements: the zombies being dangerous to survivors. The titular monsters aren't attacking anyone but the sudden loss of the majority of Nevada to a a shambling trance-like state is bad enough. The book shows the survivors dealing with the horror of their family, friends, and loved one's condition instead of an immediate threat to their survival.
Minji and her small group of survivors, unlike the majority of zombie apocalypse survivors, have the chance to investigate their problem's origin and deal with it. In a way, the book is what a big-budget version of The Twilight Zone version of the zombie apocalypse would be like. It's very much about the morality, human emotions, and relationships than the general nihilism of, say, The Walking Dead. Minji is a strong heroine who handles the racism, stupidity, and callousness of her fellow survivors with reasonable aplomb.
The Mesmerized didn't feel like a long book and I went through it's three-hundred-and-thirty-three pages very quickly. The characterizations are not especially deep outside of Minji but they are serviceable and show a believable range of human emotion. The primal motivations are the best, in my opinion, and very little works better than a mother working to save her child's life. I bought Minji's feelings from the beginning to the end and authentic characterization is the strongest part of this book.
The book makes good use of its Las Vegas setting, highlighting its role as an adult playground which has an abnormal number of children present. It mirrors my own experiences with the city and I think the author managed to capture the "essence" of the city. The geography isn't horrible, either, including references to many notable city-locations in roughly the right place. Compared to most genre books, that's a significant accomplishment.
Horror fans may note the book is light on the darkness. The titular creatures aren't, necessarily, dead just brainwashed. There's a decided lack of violence, too, consisting of only a single person as a major threat to Minji. While the entire world is at stake, really, this could have been an episode of Doctor Who for how everything is wrapped up. Even the resolution to the threat is more about peace and understanding than violence. This isn't a bad thing, quite refreshing really, but traditionalist fans of zombie fiction should be warned.
In conclusion, I liked this book. It's good "Light Horror" reading without the grimdark of so many other books. If you wanted to give someone a copy of a zombie book for people who are not zombie fans, I'd recommend this along with Time of Death and Ex-Heroes.
Which is high praise.
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