Let’s imagine you are a fan of the zombie apocaypse horror/science fiction subgenres but you are cautious about reading unknown zombie apocalypse authors. Your fears are completely understandable; I’m not even a zombie apocalypse fan and that makes me very discerning about what I enjoy. We both have that in common, even if our reasons are different. Trust me when I say that Outbreak: The Hunger is a fun read and in spite of its writing style flaws I do recommend it.
Outbreak: The Hunger begins scarily similar to the zombie apocalypse horror movie 28 Days Later (note the reference to the movie in the text) in which three animal rights activists are in a laboratory to free the animals. They do exactly that, but of course it blows up in their faces when one of the friends is killed by an animal and another friend is badly injured. The third friend is Jason, a very important secondary character who survives the night and stupidly spreads the zombie virus. You’ll learn more about him later in the novel, so keep his name in mind.
The bulk of the novel is about John, a chef and father to daughter Fiona (Fi). They are visiting the local zoo for daddy-daughter day thinking it’ll be fun, unaware that some of the zombie animals are there and ready to attack/spread the virus. Does either one survive to the end? Let’s just say that you’ll have to read through the epilogue and then to the first chapter of book two, Outbreak: The Mutation to find out.
My biggest hang-up about Outbreak: The Hunger is the writing style. This is not a deal breaker for me, but it’s fair to mention it in case it bothers any of you. The book is partially in third person, like when the animal rights activists break into the laboratory, any backstory about people who handle the zombie animals (Ex: Animal shelter workers Julie and Jim), and any scene involving the military. The remaining chapters are in first person where John is talking about being attacked by the zombie animals at the zoo. While the mixed points-of-view are necessary for telling the full story, it’s jarring to switch from third person to first person and back again.
Although the writing style can be problematic, Outbreak: The Hunger is a fun read. At the risk of spoiling a key part of the novel, the characters are often as confused as the readers. There’s not a clear “This is what the zombie virus is and this is how it spreads from animals to humans” explanation. Different characters contribute new information up until the end of the novel. This means that you go through a similar journey as the characters (except without zombie animals). Just keep in mind this helpful hint: Don’t care too much for anyone because the body count is pretty high. If you hate everyone or can handle characters you like getting picked off by zombie animals, you have nothing to worry about.
Author Scott Shoyer has been getting positive reviews by other zombie apocalypse authors such as Joe McKinney. I wouldn’t normally mention the reviews because they’re ego-stroking by friends, but here it’s relevant. Outbreak: The Hunger deserves more publicity than it currently has. I can’t promise that everyone will love it, but I can tell you that it impressed a reader who isn’t normally a fan of zombie apocalypse novels. Tell me what you thought of it.
I would normally bypass zombie novellas because ewwwww, zombies, but Dead Islands (Necrose Series) by Tim Moon is a needed change from my now-quickly-becoming-usual aquatic horror. It’s a quick, decently intense read. No, I’m not going to go to bed dreaming of regular humans vomiting until they die and then reawakening as mindless flesh eaters. Well, I might, but not because of Dead Islands. Still, I thought it was much more gripping than I imagined it would be. The biggest downfall about the book is some blatantly poor grammar that I, not even a trained or hired editor, could see quite clearly. Reading these supernatural creature horror novels is supposed to be my free time when I don’t think about grammar and other technical business, so I was highly disappointed in that aspect. I’ll explain this more clearly later on.
Dead Islands is a country-traveling horror novella, which is probably one reason it’s creepy. It’s bad enough that in this novella the entire country of China is infected with a zombie virus, but it’s even worse that the virus quickly spreads across the world. Readers only see the virus in its infancy in China as told through the eyes of a tourist (who doesn’t feature in the novella past the prologue) and then how it travels from a Chinese airplane into Kona, Haiwaii through the eyes of protagonist Ben Chase. Ben Chase is returning from an English teacher position in China and of course he gets caught up in situations where the virus spreads from person to person while magically keeping his health and humanity. Throughout the novel you’re going to wonder if the only reason Ben survives is that the author requires him for the rest of the series because by all means he should’ve shown signs of possibly contracting the virus. Ben is one of those “special snowflake” characters. If you can overlook the unbelievability of Ben’s survival, it’s worth it to read to the end. Yes, Ben and his group of friends and fellow survivors do get sent to a military quarantine center and live to potentially return for the second novella in the series. Meanwhile, this novella ends with a cliffhanger of sorts. I won’t spoil it, but let’s just say that it seems the military is being negatively affected by the zombie virus in ways they never intended to be.
The positive points of Dead Islands are as follows:
- Ben Chase is an English teacher. I know there’s very little in this novella about that, but I think it’s so cool! Yay English teachers! Plus, if you think about it, how many other zombie novels or novellas have a normal everyday man character battling zombies? Just because everyone can see that Ben Chase and his friends are going to survive to the end, it’s still interesting to follow how they do it.
- Have you seen the horror movie Quarantine Two: Terminal? It’s not the world’s best horror movie and probably not even in the top 100 of best zombie movies, but I thought it was quite disturbing. The effective point of the above-mentioned movie is that part of the horror took place while the characters were in the air and part of it was when they were locked in a terminal. Well, Dead Islands felt very similar to Quarantine Two: Terminal. For example, let’s briefly look at the scene where Ben and his friend Ty are riding on an airplane to get to Kona, Hawaii. At some point during the trip, Ty leans over to Ben and tells him that the man in front of them died from vomiting all over the front of his seat. Ben looks at the mess and there’s globs of green gunk mixed with red liquid. The man died from extremely bloody vomiting. Less than thirty minutes later, the dead man (zombie, but of course nobody is smart enough to call him that) begins attacking a woman. Here’s the run-down of my thoughts on this. I am terrified of vomit, which means watching it, reading about it, hearing it, hearing people make “vomit sounds”…so basically, just vomit in all its disgusting forms. Reading about this turned my stomach all in knots and I’m not sure I’ve quite recovered yet. As far as I’m concerned, this is a legitimate horror novel. Thank you Tim Moon!
- I swear Ben, Ty, and their female friends are the dumbest characters when it comes to zombies! Author Tim Moon politely calls them out on their stupidity by making them self-aware of their lack-of-zombie knowledge. In one scene midway through the book, long after the two friends have seen people and corpses chewed up by the zombies, Ben and Ty are talking about what the flesh eating people might be and Ben suggests that maybe they’re zombies. Ty laughs it off as ridiculous. Tim Moon subtly tells his readers that he knows these characters are the dumbest and he’s playing that up.
There was one major thing I didn’t like about Dead Islands and unfortunately I do have to give it its own paragraph. The grammar in some spots, spread throughout the novel, is horrific. Let me give you an example. On page 5, we have “Darius emerged from the shadows of the alley and into the sun, it took him a minute to process what lay before him.” This sentence would be perfectly acceptable has there been a period splitting up the idea where Darius emerged into the sun and where it took him a minute to process what lay before him. This comma is inappropriately placed. Now, I understand the mistakes can slip through both the author and the publisher, but it’s no longer a mistake when it shows up through the entire book. I call attention to it because readers should not be clearly seeing errors such as this in their fun reading material. If I can pinpoint errors when it’s not even my job to do so, why can’t the author and editor do the same? It’s these sort of grammatical errors that make traditionally-published, “dead tree” books cautious of getting into the self-pubbed market and the least authors and their editors can do is take away simple problems complaints through closely, thoroughly editing the work.