If you like fast-paced, action-packed, gore-filled, apocalyptic zombie stories, then this is one you don’t want to miss. I had a helluva good time reading it even though at times a few of the characters (Jenni) and some of the dialogue seriously grated on my nerves.
In Book 1 of a trilogy, Frater offers up a textbook genre zombie story, borrowing a lot from Romero canon (who she gives ample homage to) and a little from Danny Boyle (damn those quick-moving zombies!!) So while there are really no surprises here, or anything “new”, The First Days still manages to be a quick, fun, ruthless portrait of well … the first days of a zombie apocalypse: the panic, confusion, shock, grief, terror and insanity.
At first I questioned the seething hatred experienced by some of the characters – why they should so immediately loath
the zombies and lust to kill them. Something about that wasn’t ringing true to me. Killing anything is pretty traumatic and I felt it would take longer for survivors to become adept at it or need more time to fuel the flames of their hatred. But maybe when you lose everything in one vicious blow and you have these vile “things” in front of you that only want to tear you apart and eat you alive your priorities and your rationality change pretty quickly. I’m sure people’s minds would snap in most cases, and fear and rage are pretty interconnected emotions. While some of the overkill seemed out of place, at the same time Frater is probably completely spot-on in her observations of human behavior.
There is also a scene at the beginning of the book that makes this book worth picking up. (view spoiler)[I won’t ever forget those tiny little fingers reaching under the door – so ghoulish! Children are usually exempt from zombie stories, but Frater dares to go there and she does it very effectively. While I will probably forget most of this book, I will never forget that scene. (hide spoiler)]
The writing is rough in places, but it does get stronger as the novel goes on, and what Frater lacks in finesse, she more than makes up for in her ability to write incendiary action scenes.
For two-thirds of the novel I didn’t feel attached to any of the characters, but I was pleasantly surprised when by the end I was beginning to feel like I “knew” them, even though I still didn’t like them very much. I’m invested now though, and cannot wait to read on in the series. This is the utmost compliment to Frater – I do need to know what happens next and so will you I bet.