Saturday, September 4, 2010

Girl on Book Action: Monster Island: A Zombie Novel by David Wellington

Monster Island: A Zombie Novel by David Wellington
ISBN: 978-1-56025-850-6


It’s one month after a global disaster. The most “developed” nations of the world have fallen to the shambling zombie masses. Only a few pockets of humanity survive…

In New York City, the dead walk the streets, driven by an insatiable hunger for all things living. From the other side of the planet, a small but heavily armored group of schoolgirls-turned-soldiers comes in search of desperately needed medicine, with a former UN weapons inspector as their local guide. They think they are prepared for anything. On Monster Island they will find that there is something worse even than undeath.


Aside: As you might recall, I reviewed David Wellington's Frostbite back in January, which encouraged me to pick up some of his other books.

My Thoughts:

The last zombie novel I read was Max Brooks’ amazing World War Z way back when it was first released, so I was pretty much looking forward to someone else’s take on a world overrun by the flesh-eating undead. I love zombies only second-best to my object of study, vampires. Indeed, at times I have preferred the zombie, with its allusions to mass-consumerism and conformity, etc etc ad nauseum. At any rate, my expectations, based on Wellington’s Frostbite and my previous zombie-novel exposure, were not low. I also tried to keep in mind that the zombie, while effective in movies due to the gross-out factor, isn’t necessarily made for fiction.

Okay, I promise I’m done with the intro now. We all know I could go on and on in that vein.

Monster Island was okay. It took a while to get going and the end left me going “huh, what?” in that uncomfortable, “did I miss something important along the way?” manner. As well as losing me at the end, I wasn't overly fond of the main character, didn't appreciate the characters I liked were without a doubt the ones who ended up dying and would have liked to hear more about some of the background of various things touched on throughout the story - mostly in relation to the zombies. While the book certainly had its flaws, but where it did succeed is in bringing in a little bit of mythology, a little bit of magic rather than just giving you your run-of-the-mill virus-induced zombies.

Is that a spoiler up ahead?

Gary, in my opinion, was a great addition to the novel and made a decent villain. If the book had been just about fighting the hordes of the undead, it would have been boring, but the additional plot of a sentient zombie working against them once he realized he’d never be accepted among the living gave the story a little bit of depth. And when Mael showed up and started talking druid talk, the whole thing got even more interesting, at least to me. Although the whole "I must destroy the human race, because that’s what my ancient god wants me to do" thing was a little bit predictable. I’m also not sure about the mummies, but hey, it worked.

We’ve made it safely past! End spoilers.

Let’s talk characters briefly. I made the mistake of becoming attached to all of the wrong characters and this being a zombie story, a lot of people got dead. The moral of the story is: don’t get attached to characters in a zombie book, everyone is fair game, up for grabs, on the meat-market. Okay, I’ll stop there. The protagonist wasn’t particularly endearing to me. He had his moments, but mostly I just sort of put up with him and admired all the stronger people around him, like the schoolgirl soldiers with their AK-47s slaughtering zombies left, right and center.

To return to what I said before – the end made no sense to me and I have a feeling I missed something along the way. It’s possible that it’s meant as a setup for the second novel in the trilogy, but that didn’t come across in my reading. It's laudable to want to set up part two to make people want to continue reading, but the novel has to make sense in itself. Perhaps I’ll get part two at some point and find out. I have to admit that in the process of writing and editing this review over the span of a couple of weeks I went back to the ending and re-read it and thought about it some more and I *think* I have it almost sorted out, but I still have some doubts. It makes more sense to me now than it did when I originally read the book and wrote this review, but it's still not completely transparent.

My last two-cents are as follows: If you’re looking for some zombie fiction, you can pick this up. And while it's certainly not on par with World War Z (which you should read at some point if you're interested in zombie fiction), Monster Island is a decent foray into the world of zombies in print.

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