Back to something I've fallen out of the habit of for a time and that's reviewing independent horror novels and, in particular, post-apocalypse as well as zombie fiction. One of the books I've been sitting on for awhile has been Brian J. Parker's Enduring Armageddon, which is a story about a man who deals with the fallout (*rimshot*) of a nuclear war.
This isn't a novel about an actual nuclear war, mind you, but more the kind you'd find in the Fallout video games. Radiation causes the rise of zombies, the creation of intelligent zombies (who, as an homage to Fallout, I shall term Ghouls), and (spoiler alert) giant scorpions. I, honestly, have no problem with this because an actual nuclear war wouldn't be any fun to read about.
The premise is Chuck and Rebecca are a pair of unprepared survivors who are wandering around the desolate remains of Illinois, trying to find a community which will take them. Rebecca has the benefit of being a grade-school teacher to justify her existence but Chuck is an investment banker, which means just about nothing in the PA world.
I think he undersells himself, personally, as you'd think understanding who needs what and how would be valuable skills to possess. Chuck and Rebecca quickly end up in a community which is controlled by a madman and the former discovers he'll have to participate in their brutal raids on other survivor's communities in order to stay. This becomes exceptionally important when Rebecca is revealed to be pregnant.
The best part of the novel is the period of time where Chuck is serving as an unwilling bandit preying on others. Countless post-apocalypse related fiction has the premise of psychopaths preying on the weak for supplies. Taking the story from the perspective of those marauders is something I hadn't seen before and something I really enjoyed. How much would you be willing to do in order to guarantee the safety of your child?
Unfortunately, this section of the story is one which doesn't last the entirety of the book as our protagonists believe it's better to take their chances on the open road with zombies, bandits, giant monsters, and radiation. I didn't quite buy this line of reasoning even if it turns out to have been the right choice.
The book's biggest benefit is Brian J. Parker is a magnificent writer of action. The battle scenes are always extremely well-detailed and give you a strong sense of what's happening without ever losing forward momentum. I also like the character Alejandro who is a great "intelligent" zombie.
The book stumbles a bit at both the beginning and the end, explaining too much and then not ending on a particularly large climax. Instead, the denouement seems to imply this is just the part of a much larger epic without sufficient closure. Despite this, the book has much going for it and I would recommend it above much post-apocalypse fiction.