Original Release Date: November 2, 2010
Publisher: Late Nite Books
Editor’s Note: the version of the book provided for our review is now out of print. The revised second edition can be found by clicking here.
Believe it or not, biological warfare isn’t a 20th Century concept. I found out (on good old Wikipedia) that some instances of using chemicals or fungi to wreak havoc on an enemy date back to the 6th Century, when the Assyrians tainted enemy wells with a fungus that caused delirium. Over the centuries, governments and armies have refined both the types of weapons and their delivery methods. Writers of zombie stories, such as Brian Kittrell, have also found this an effective way to introduce and to spread the infection.
In The Dying Times, conflict rages in the African nation of Zaire as warlords fight one another for control. The United States sends an aircraft carrier and task force in an effort to stabilize the country, but the warlords will have none of it, threatening to fire biological weapons at the U.S. if the ship doesn’t back off. Of course, the U.S. doesn’t back down, but it comes as a surprise when the Zaire Liberation Front holds to its threat and fires its missiles at an unprepared U.S. releasing a fast-moving virus across the eastern United States.
Thrust into this nightmare is 13-year-old Nadene, forced to spend the night at the home of her best friend Sally while her mother works the late shift at a local diner. Just before the missiles fire, Nadene experiences terrible pains. Her mother finally makes it to Sally’s house, explaining the devastation outside and trying to convince everyone that they can’t stay put. When no one will leave with her, she takes Nadene, and together they begin the difficult journey west, finding other survivors and battling hordes of hungry zombies along the way. As they travel, Nadene’s cramps morph into horrific visions of what awaits them on their journey.
Let’s run The Dying Times through the Score and see what happens…
G: General Entertainment – The story is fairly standard zombie fare, with a group of survivors trying to make it to what they hope will be a safe haven. The action plods along steadily, but eventually picks up the pace and action once the group reaches Biloxi, Mississippi. At that point, the story takes a creative twist and morphs into a page turner. I stayed up the rest of the night – until well past midnight on a school night – needing to find out what happened. 7/10
O: Original Content – I like the idea that zombies result from a bioweapon attack not from one of the traditional enemies of the United States, but from the African nation of Zaire. How easy (and almost typical) it would have been to choose a country that’s constantly in today’s headlines, but by selecting Zaire, more questions crop up, such as from whom did they get the technology and how did they develop such a bioweapon, because we know so little about the country. My only concern with the story’s content deals with Nadene, who senses when bad things are about to happen thanks to bouts of severe stomach cramping. It reminded me too much of Buffy the Vampire Slayer circa 1992, but thankfully the book’s narrative moves away from the cramps to nightmarish dreams of the future. 6/10
R: Realism – I had a difficult time with the characters. They all sounded alike and their conversations felt staged, as if they were reading lines from a script. Nadene broke away from this, especially when dealing with her visions and the group’s reluctance to listen to her. I also found myself more interested when the characters were active, such as when they were scrambling through the zombie-infested police station or hurrying to fill a bus’ gas tank before the hordes attacked; the lulls, when they sat around talking, were a bit dull. 5/10
E: Effects and Editing — I try not to be overly nitpicky when it comes to grammatical errors or misspellings in a book. I realize that no one’s perfect, that the occasional comma pops up in the wrong place or letters are accidentally juxtaposed (such as when I type too fast, spell “teh” and hit the “Submit” button on my blog). I find it difficult, though, to forget what I consider a major error, especially when it occurs early in a story. About two-thirds of the way through Chapter 2, a main character’s name is switched with that of another for a few pages — Sally’s mother, Haley, becomes Nadene’s mother, Pamela. Maybe it’s only in my e-copy of the book. Maybe the .pdf gods don’t like that I use a Nook instead of a Kindle. Whatever the case, it tainted my experience as I read the rest of the story. 4/10
TOTAL SCORE: 5.5/10
The Dying Times: Nadene’s Story is a decent start to the Survivor Chronicles. I feel that some attention needs to paid to the editing so that gaffes like what happened in Chapter 2 are caught in time, but I am interested enough in with the story to want to find out what happens to Nadene and her small group of survivors in the next book. And now you know the Score!