Monday, August 3, 2015

Rotting to the Core review

    Rotting to the Core is the sequel to S.P. Durnin's hilariously sexy post-apocalypse zombie novel, Keep Your Crowbar Handy. It followed Jake, his girlfriend Laura, Laura's best friend Kat, and a number of other survivors stuck together in a survival shelter. Ultimately, the zombies managed to drive our heroes from their home and force them on a quest for a location where humanity is still in control of the planet.

    Also, to confront the fact they all want to have sex with each other!

    Yes, I've read a lot of zombie fiction in my time. Most of it is morbid and depressing with the obvious fact that the death of large amounts of humanity isn't exactly cheerful. There's some exceptions like the Time of Death series by Shana Festa as well as the Zombie Attack! series by Sagliani but the rule holds true.

    This series, however, is one which perfectly replicates the kind of mad fun of a video game from the hyper-sexualized characters to the awesome action sequences to the over-the-top villains. If they were ever going to do a Left 4 Dead or Dead Island series of novels, they could do worse than S.P. Durnin.

    The premise is Jake and Kat are trapped outside of their bunker, looking for their fellow survivors. They end up encountering a group which is attempting to deliberately pair off their warriors with "healthy specimens" and end up kidnapping Jake for that purpose. Which in a more lurid book which would be alright for Jake but he is desperate to remain faithful to his girlfriend even while falling in love with Kat.

    Listen, I'm all for monogamy but I think there's a few exceptions capable of being made, one of which includes the apocalypse. As long as everyone's willing, it strikes me there's not much reason to complain. I'm not even sure the girls would mind given some of the subtext dropped. Jake, however, is determined to avoid even in the hint of impropriety even as it seems he's about the only able bodied man who isn't a Nazi or cannibal within a hundred miles.

    Amusingly, despite the above fantasy elements which makes every other female ridiculously hot, I'm pleasantly surprised to say the estrogen-possessing members of the cast are well-developed. While the Double-X chromosome members of the cast all carry a torch for Jake within minutes of meeting him, they have their own histories and motivations as well as being a collection of distinct badass characters.

    It's schlocky but schlocky fun.

    The majority of the book isn't about Jake's oh-so-terrible problem of being pursued by a collection of katana-wielding badass warrior women like certain anime but numerous close-encounters with zombies. The undead are slaughtered in droves by our heroes in a variety of well-written, fun action sequences. When we're not fighting zombies, it's a matter of fighting Neo-Nazis led by Jake's ex-stripper girlfriend Nichole.

    Did I mention this is schlocky fun?

    This novel may put off some people, especially those sensitive to the kind of male fantasy elements found in your typical video game or Bond movie. There's a sense of joy in the work, however, and none of the dismissiveness which misogynist works possess about sex. No, S.P. Durnin very much loves women and hopes they love his character back. I, as a reader, could tell the difference.

    Also, the ending hit me like a gut punch. I'd been lured into a false sense of security by the silliness.

    Another trait of video games.

    Well played.

    Well played.


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