Patrick D'Orazio's Reviews > The First Days

The First Days by Rhiannon Frater
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's review
Nov 05, 2010

really liked it
Read in October, 2008

Rhiannon Frater has gone where...well, many men have gone before, but very few women. In fact, as I scan my bookshelf that is filled with all sorts of zombie stories I can't really see another female author that pops up there. A few short stories, for certain. When I look at vampire titles there are plenty of women involved in the mix, but as far as the walking dead are concerned, it has been pretty much the boy's club up to this point.
The author provides a fresh, female perspective to the zombie apocalypse. No worries, zombie fans, this is no "girl power" feminine manifesto, though going into this story I had my concerns. The two main characters are certainly two characters that could have fallen into that realm: an abused housewife who is set free by both the advent of the zombie apocalypse and by a ultra confident lesbian attorney who hits the road with her in a desperate attempt to escape the mass slaughter going on around them.
The author does a good job of taking two characters that could have easily been turned into stereotypical archetypes and instead fleshes them out into real people. Beyond those two characters we also are provided with a variety of strong male and female secondary characters as well. These two fit into this mixed up world of zombie apocalypse, yet they don't overpower it. They grow stronger and there is a bit of a Thelma and Louise-ish quality to their story but they are certain much more than that.
Yes, I freely admit that it is my own fault that I might have jump to some conclusions in advance of getting very far into this book but I also never hesitated to dive into it. I must say I was pleased I did.
The author has a solid writing style and given that this is an inpendent book there is surprisingly few typos throughout. A few but if you have ever read any other independent zombie fiction you certainly will appreciate the level of quality that went into the editing of this novel.

The overall story here runs parallel to many other zombie novels, with the author's own variation on the theme. We land in this story as Jenni, one of our main characters, has just seen her family wiped out by her abusive husband, who was bitten by some bum the night before. Turns out he was infected and overnight has turned into a zombie, killing everyone but his wife, who escapes with Katie, another woman who just witnessed her wife, Lydia, turned into a zombie as well. They escape into the Texas hill country and meet up with other survivors until they come upon a town that is being turned into a fortress. The story is filled with a lot of high powered action and fast moving zombies. There are romantic undertones that are nicely done (something that rarely seems to be the case in most zombie novels...most authors who write this style of book don't do a very good job on that level). In this, the first of a trilogy, we get to see the characters evolve and get to meet several other solid characters. It is a book well worth reading if you are into the zombie genre.

So, with all that said I can comment on why I did not give this book five stars. It has nothing to do with the fundamentals of the story. It is solid, well told, and I am looking forward to the second and third installments.
It would be served well to go through a round of professional editing even as solid as it is. I give high praise to anyone who can write and do not get me wrong, but this story could be pushed into something far greater with another person taking a look at it.
The introduction to Travis, one of the main characters in the book, was a bit overwhelming. The author makes it abundantly clear that is is the protypical handsome hero with some of the more fervent discriptions of him. Both of our tough females, who up to this point have been rock stars in dealing with all sorts of adversity, melt in his presence. It was a real "all men fear him, all women adore him" type moment. After the initial introduction the author does a good job of making him more real throughout the story but I thought the initial introduction was a tad bit over done.
A minor gripe I have with this book is when the author inserts references to the zombie survival guide written by Max Brooks in the story a few times. One of the characters is respected as a expert on the subject of zombies because he has read the guide several times and provides others with survival tips based on what the guide has said, although he gripes that the zombies in this story are somewhat different than the ones in Brook's book. Maybe it is just me, but the reference seemed a bit too obvious. That said, I do appreciate, as many zombie fans will, the effort the author went to in attempting to create a safe haven away from the zombies as the residents of the town our two main characters end up in attempt to build a fortress to live in safely as the zombies scratch at them at the outside walls. Envisioning how you would survive a zombie apocalypse long term certainly comes into play with some of her ideas.
I did like how the author dealt with the challenges people would face in dealing with having to kill the infected before they rise from the dead. I am not sure how easy it would be to declare that anyone bitten must immediately be put down but that is addressed here in this story. I think all of us would want to believe we could easily take someone out who has been bitten and has no chance to survive, no way to avoid becoming something that is no longer human, but there is something to be said for giving someone every last minute of humanity they can get before pulling the trigger and snuffing out their lives. Perhaps the author, who does a fine job of exploring this topic in this book, will continue to develop the topic in the second and third book.

I liked this book a lot and encourage other fans of zombie fiction to give it a shot. Is it perfect in my estimation? No, but nothing is. Does the overall trilogy have the potential to be tremendous? Yes, it does. I look forward to finding out what happens next in the second installment.
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message 2: by Gerd (new)

Gerd I'm a bit confused here:
"a ultra confident lesbian attorney who hits the road with her..." (Review)
“There Jenni and Katie find they are both attracted to Travis,” (Blurb)

I’ll take it she’s actually bi then?

Patrick D'Orazio Yep, it is sort of confusing based on my description, but actually, the author, I believe, intentionally makes it a bit confusing at first, until more is unveiled about the character. Heh...I know I probably haven't helped with that explanation, but it is sort of a "you'll see when you read it" type of deal. ;)

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