Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Red Death: A Post-Apocalypse Thriller review

    Another independent horror novel of a decidedly post-apocalypse bent, Red Death by D.L. Robinson is an ebola-themed epidemic story. It is a short but bittersweet novel, averaging about 167 pages for ebook readers.

    The premise is Tara Green and her husband Lee are at ground zero in an outbreak of the titular plague from Edgar Allan Poe's classic, in this case a mutated form of Ebola. Her neighbors die horribly, the government in the area becomes tyrannical, and there is a general breakdown in society.

    Weirdly, of all things, the book mostly reminded me of John Milinus' Red Dawn. For those unfamiliar with the 1980s jingoistic Red Scare classic, it was about a group of young survivors dealing with a Soviet takeover of the hometown. I remember that movie very strikingly not for its ludicrous premise of the guerrilla warfare, though I did as well, but because of the terrible struggle the children went through suddenly stripped away from civilization.

    The similarities between that movie and Red Death aren't in any way the plot or the characters but the general sense of your hometown transforming from a place of safety and security into a horrible occupied nightmare. There's also a strong sense of community and good will at the center of the novel, which is rare in post-apocalypse stories not written by Stephen King.

    Tara and Lee are perhaps a little too good to be true but given how awful the majority of people seem to become at the drop of a hat in post-apocalypse fiction, it was nice to see an alternative presented. Even the tyrannical government premise which the novel seemed to be forwarding has a subversion. I liked the character of Mary as a strong contrast yet compliment to Tara, showing two very different reactions to a situation by women with the same fundamental core.

     The novel is filled with diary entries from Tara which could have easily formed the entire basis for the novel but which help supplement the action going on during the drama. The pacing is quite good, moving from the initial outbreak, to people starting to die close at hand, to martial law, to insane overreaction, to resistance, and beyond. I'm particularly fond of the vaccine twist as it's just the kind of crazy survival-at-all-costs mentality which does more harm than good.

    There are a lot of terribly potent and emotional moments in Red Death. One particular moment at the climax, involving "sending the women and children out first" was one of the most shocking I've read in a novel over the past year. Robinson has a grasp of good drama and a very visual style which I think most readers will find moving. She's also rather minimalist, meaning the plot moves along at a lightning pace. The story still captures the humanity of the characters extremely well, however.

    Overall, I'm not a huge fan of epidemic post-apocalypse fiction and kind of rolled my eyes at the author's dig at zombie-fiction at the beginning but I highly recommend this novel to those who find that up their bailiwick.


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