by Matthew Costello

The guns neatly nested in the foam. Boxes of shells on the side. The small, timed explosives. A larger flashlight.
Crazy, he thought, to be traveling with this.
But then he thought, Crazier not to.

The world has been overrun by Can Heads (zombies), and no one knows how it started. Jack is a New York police officer living and working in a steadily shrinking environment as survivors band together into strongholds with secured perimeters. Humanity isn’t dead yet, but it’s under siege.

Jack has a harrowing incident while on duty and after his physical recovery he’s told to take his family to a popular, expensive vacation spot to recharge before returning to work. Jack doesn’t want to go, but sees it as a chance strengthen family bonds. He takes his wife and his two kids to the heavily guarded Paterville Family Camp where the action really begins.

The book’s strong suit is its action. Jack’s an injured cop but an excellent survivor and provider, and everything unfolds from his perspective. His logical, fast-acting crisis response is cranked up throughout the novel and that makes it fly by.

There’s no doubt the zombie genre is worn, and while the plot here is fine it’s not breaking any new ground. But the action keeps things moving and builds tension in a way that moves this novel forward at a breakneck speed. The novel’s full-sized, a bit over 70,000 words, but after little sputtering at its start you’re going to be tempted to read this thing straight through. And once it really gets going, which doesn’t take long, you’ll actually be hard pressed to put it down.

The pacing here is worthy of study. This isn’t just an excellent novel as far as zombie types go, it’s an excellent novel.

Jack’s guns smoking in each hand like mini-chimneys.
“Yeah,” he said. “That’s what you get for ruining my fucking vacation.”

4- stars

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