Patrick D'Orazio's Reviews > Shelter from the Dead

Shelter from the Dead by Keith Luethke
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May 15, 11

Read in May, 2011

Shelter from the Dead tells the tale of three survivors after the advent of the zombie apocalypse. The story starts out by introducing us to Alex, a young man whose uncle, the last of the people he knew or cared for left alive, is being executed by a biker named Graves, who just so happens to be the leader of a gang called the Marauders. Most of the world is split up into groups of different survivors, many of which are gangs that take what they can to survive, and kill who they need to so they can continue to remain in power. Graves decides to leave Alex behind, tied up with the zombies moving in, taunting him as he rides off, believing that he'll be devoured long before he can do anything about the death of his uncle. The other two survivors that are the main characters in this story are Sarah and Joelle, two women who are in Graves' gang. Their story starts out with them on a mission to gather supplies from someone hiding out in a building that refuses to give up or share. Their mission goes south and they are hounded by both the living and the undead as Joelle breaks her ankle and they are captured by a different gang. In their quest to find their way back to the only safe haven they know, they run into Alex, who keeps his quest for revenge secret, knowing that these two will hopefully lead him back to his prey, Graves. The three of them form a relationship and team up to find Graves and the rest of the Marauders, who are on the move, heading north for the winter.

Overall, this is fast paced, gory post-apocalyptic thriller and a tale of revenge that gets sidetracked as new loyalties are developed and relationships formed between survivors who are not quite sure who to trust and who to rely upon. The story was an easy and fast read for me. The three main characters were interesting, though I couldn't quite pin down Joelle. Sarah and Alex are both driven, tough, and focused. Alex wants revenge no matter what, even as he forms a romantic attachment to Sarah. Sarah is willing to do whatever it takes to survive, and is, in many ways, ruthless about it, no matter who she has to kill. Joelle, while appearing to be docile throughout a great deal of the story, gives off contradictory signals as to where her loyalties lie. Even with the acceptance that the men who make up the gang she aligns herself with are murderous rapists and butchers, being with them is still home to her, and her daughter is with them, though in some instances, she seems to forget about the little girl's existence. As the book goes on, things become clearer and I gained a better understanding of what she was all about, though I still felt as if she were a bit confusing and unsure about things, all the way until the end of the tale. It made for an interesting character, though I think she was a bit schizophrenic at times.

I enjoyed this story. While it breaks no new ground on the zombie front, I am far from being someone who needs or expects that. I prefer something character driven, and this focused on the three characters through the entire tale but also focused on action that did not let up. A zombie fan looking for gore and action should be pretty satisfied with this one. At the same time, as I typically do in a review, I like to point out where I felt were the rough spots in the story for me. Rape is a major theme in this book, and plays a part from beginning to end. I accept that rape would play a part in the new and ugly landscape of the world in such an environment, but perhaps not to the extent that the author proposes. He shows how commonplace the brutality of men can be, but I felt that perhaps it was excessive in the story. Then again, I have no doubts that a world like that could and would turn many men into animals. Besides this I had only some minor geographical quibbles that I won't go into detail on, except to say that being someone who has traveled in the northeastern U.S., I noticed some discrepancies that didn't really distract from the story itself, but were noticeable. Don't take these criticisms as any sort of deal breaker here. This is an entertaining, gore-drenched zombie tale that any fan of traditional, slow moving undead should enjoy. The author likes to spread the blood and the viscera around, and like with almost every worthwhile tale of the apocalypse, the real monsters are never the ones that are already dead, but the ones that are still alive.
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