Brendan's Reviews > Het Madden, a Zombie Perspective: Book One: Wrath 2012

Het Madden, a Zombie Perspective by Calvin A.L. Miller II
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Nov 03, 10

bookshelves: 2010, adventure-thriller, fiction, horror, scifi, zombies
Read in October, 2010

Het Madden follows the adventures of a man who finds himself in the middle of a zombie outbreak, infected but sentient. He gathers together a few other sentient zombies and leads them on a crusade to find out where the zombie virus (called Wrath) came from and how to stop it. The story has some interesting ideas, but suffers from poor editing and copyediting. A few thoughts:

* Miller constructs a series of ways to influence zombies — drugs, vaccines, anti-viral medications, viruses — that allows the novel to have a melodramatic valence. The rules for who can control the undead and who will be controlled by them are constantly changing, and so the story stays surprising. Similarly, several of the characters have multiple levels of motivation and intention, so we’re never sure which side they’re playing on, if any.
* My favorite aspect of the novel was what Het comes to call the Frenzy, a kind of group-think that zombies get into when they’re in huge mobs. They become ravenous and animalistic beyond all control, ripping apart whatever they can. As a neat twist, when zombies are in Frenzy they will often murder one another if there are no living people to attack. This angle of the story is unique, as far as I can tell, and adds solid tension to Madden’s journey — he’s always having to think about how to keep his horde of ravenous zombies from slipping into Frenzy and killing one another.
* At the same time, I had a lot of trouble with the sentence-level writing in the book. Miller uses ellipses and exclamation points more than he needs to, and there are quite a few typos and other errors. (For example, CDC is called the Center for Disease Control instead of the Centers.) While these factors are ultimately insignificant to the story, they highlighted for me the value of a good copyeditor and a good editor. By contrast, I notice the five reviews on Amazon are pretty positive, with almost no one commenting on these issues.
* It’s interesting that the zeitgeist seems, right now, to side with the zombies. While David Wellington’s Monster cycle started this trend, Miller’s book joins Robin Becker’s Brains and at least one other book, Breaking News, that I’m planning to read in this year’s zombie season. In each case, the author expects us to side with the zombies and provides very little sense of shame or sadness on the part of the zombies who are murdering people. In fact, Het Madden and Becker’s book are so similar that, when just thinking about plot points, I need to be careful not to confuse them. To be clear, both were published within the last two years, so they’re certainly just drawing on the cultural moment. I’m not suggesting anything improper.

Het Madden is built on a strong foundational idea, but it doesn’t seem to have gone through the necessary revisions to really let that story shine.
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