George Andrew Romero was an American film director, screenwriter and editor, best known for his gruesome and satirical horror films about a hypothetical zombie apocalypse, beginning with Night of the Living Dead (1968). He is nicknamed "Godfather of all Zombies."
'Night of the Living Dead', a 1968 film written and directed by George Romero, is the progenitor of the ubiquitous zombie movies, TV shows, and literature so popular in modern culture.
Writer and director George Romero
Poster for the 1968 movie 'Night of the Living Dead'
After making a series of zombie flicks Romero embarked on a zombie novel, but died before it was completed. The mantle was picked up by best-selling author Daniel Kraus, a zealous, long-time Romero fan.....and the result is this novel.
Author Daniel Kraus
This 650+ page book is far from a quickie blood and guts horror tome that could be adapted into a two-hour movie. Rather the story, a sobering depiction of 15 years of a zombie apocalypse, would require a mini-series to do it justice.
The story: On the night of October 23, early in the 21st century, recently deceased humans stopped staying dead. Instead they rose up, and craving 'food', became cannibalistic creatures variously called ghouls, biters, white eyes, things, demons, etc. Soon enough, zombies became the favored term for the undead beings.
There are myriad characters in the story, but the narrative's five main protagonists are:
- Etta Hoffmann - a dowdy Washington DC statistician who works for a division of the Census Bureau called the 'American Model of Lineage and Dimensions' (AMLD) - a unit that tracks U.S. births and deaths. Hoffman, who's probably on the autism spectrum, can't bear to be touched and "has always been AMLD's oddball.....full of leaden, blank-stare interactions."
- Charlene (Charlie) Rutkowski - a physician apprentice to San Diego's assistant medical examiner. Charlie, a shapely woman with "big, country-western blond hair and the swagger to go with it....is as out of place in a morgue as a cadaver would be at the Grand Ole Opry." Yet Charlie enjoys her job and is good at it.
- Greer Morgan - an African-American high school student who lives in a shabby trailer park in Bulk, Missouri. Greer often skives off school, and her teachers think of her as "recalcitrant, argumentative, lazy, and sluttish." Greer is clever though, and good with a bow and arrow. She likes "the creaking resistance of the wood. The smarting slap of the string against her armguard."
- Master Chief Boatswain's Mate Karl Nishimura - a gay, married, Japanese-American master helmsman aboard the aircraft carrier USS Olympia. Straitlaced Karl has earned the nickname 'Saint Karl', and his "studied hesitation has been dubbed the Nishimura Delay." Karl gives every question sober consideration, "whether asked about enemy attacks in the Persian Gulf or which brand of toothpaste to buy from the ship store."
- Chuck Corso - a barely capable but handsome news anchor - known as 'the Face' - on Atlanta's WWN all news network. The WWN news director says of the anchorman, "You may not think Chuck Corso is the crispiest chip in the bag. But goddamn it if he's not loyal. Goddamn it if he's not a team player. Which is something the rest of us should value a little more."
In the lengthy first section of the book, we follow these five characters - and some of their co-workers, family members, friends, neighbors, etc. - as the zombie apocalypse begins. Like everyone else in the world, Hoffmann, Rutkowski, Morgan, Nishimura, and Corso are bewildered at first, with no idea of what's happening. It takes a while until the protagonists comprehend that the dead are reviving, with BIG appetites.
Once the main characters understand the enormity of the catastrophe they step up to the plate, using their particular skills to deal with the unfolding calamity.
As might be expected, psychotic and self-serving humans join the zombies in raising hell, and there are bloody fights, swinging axes, racing bullets, flying arrows, vicious bites, sexual assault, adroit maneuvers, and all manner of murder and mayhem. There also some spots of romance, which are touching and tender.
Eventually all the story lines converge, and we learn what happened between the beginning of the zombie apocalypse and a time fifteen years later, when a small colony of humans is assembled in Toronto, Canada. The intervening period had PLENTY of action, which is wisely presented in abbreviated form (or the book would be 3.000 pages long).
The entire book, including the climax, is a cautionary tale about human behavior. People's greed, violence, and indifference to the environment have dire consequences in the story, which is something people in the real world would do well to understand. (In my view, the poor stewardship humans exhibited on planet Earth resulted in the Coronavirus pandemic, and there are probably more catastrophes coming down the pike.)
In a unique aspect of the story, we see passages from the zombie point of view. We come to know the 'thoughts' of several zombies, especially an extremely decomposed zombie called the Chief.
It turns out zombies sometimes exhibit purposeful behavior and they have a hive mentality, something like the Borg in Star Trek (though the Borg are much smarter).
I got his book from Netgalley, and since it's on my Kindle, I didn't realize at first how long it is. I thought I was nearing the end of the story when I realized I was only at the 35% mark. It says something that I kept right on going, until I finished the entire manuscript AND the long postscript by co-author Daniel Kraus, which is a must read in my opinion.
I'd highly recommend the book to fans of zombie literature and films.
Thanks to Netgalley, the authors (George Romero and Daniel Kraus), and the publisher (Tor Books) for a copy of the book.
It's long. Really, really long, which is an interesting genre choice. As much as I go on about the value of zombie fiction, there's a limit to what can be drawn from it, and a limit to tolerance for immersion in the world where undead function. So, a serious strike against the book for no other reason than length, because sometimes more is just inefficient. Though I feel like that sounds petty, the reality is that we live in a busy world with many things competing for attention, and even if you are the almighty best at writing zombie fiction, a book that is 656 pages is going to turn off not only potential cross-genre readers, but fans with competing interests like jobs, family and walking the dogs.
The story is multi-threaded, and builds slowly enough for any fan. One thread follows a teenage girl who lives in a multicultural trailer park with her younger brother and her dad, while her mom is away in prison for drugs. One thread follows an African-American tv producer in Chicago, having second thoughts about his career. Another follows an aging Latino medical examiner and his younger assistant in Los Angeles. In yet another thread, a Japanese-American officer of a U.S. Navy ship stars to suspect something is going wrong. These are what I recall of the primary threads, and any one of them would be very rich. Romero gives each a fairly full arc before moving onto the next, which is somewhat satisfying. Because there is such a wide variety of settings, we get to see a wide variety of reactions to the rise of the undead, and the experience of adjusting to it, and then the survival skills, which will appeal to many fans.
However, Romero eventually does something different here--I think--which is On the ship, our very likable protagonist finds himself the victim of a semi-internment camp situation, lead by and I started to feel very uncomfortable with the story. This was resistance, to be sure; but a very different kind. Likewise, over in Chicago, when the tv producer and I suspect that this played a small role in losing my momentum in the tale. No longer was it simple survival against the odds, or simple humans working out humanity. In fact, I couldn't work out where Romero was going with the plotting. I wasn't sure I liked the developments.
What really interrupted my momentum--and I'm not accusing, just analyzing--was real life. The COVID-19 pandemic was the backdrop to my reading experience, but as I progressed through the book, the Black Lives Matter protests took off and turned to riots in many cities. I was deeper into the story at this point, and as more people were undead, our L.A. characters were hiding out from both rioters and zombies, and parts of L.A. were burning around them. Add to this my own experiences in the Rodney King riots in L.A. in the 90s, and I reached my own personal bug-out point. Was I still reading fiction?
Add these things together: the length, the story direction, my PTSD, and it's unlikely I'll read another zombie book until COVID-19 pandemic is over. My apologies to both Romero and to NetGalley, as parts of it are, without doubt, exemplary for genre. But I would highly recommend considering reworking it for length, because at this point, it will be nothing more than a niche book.
Note: even though technically a DNF, I did read over three hundred pages, and what I read, I largely liked and thought was of quality. So I think it deserves a rating based on that quality.
Terrifying, audacious, THE LIVING DEAD is a towering achievement and one of the best zombie books I’ve read in years. Romero and Kraus have crafted a textured world of cruelty and humanity that will transport you from the first page to the end.
In this truly epic novel, we follow a variety of different characters as they deal with this new version of zombies. What a trip!
From a young, black woman in a trailer park to a Japanese officer on an American navy boat; from a woman who inputs medical information into a national database, to a Spanish medical examiner and his assistant, Charlene; (hey, that's my name!), we travel all across the nation over the span of 15 years or so. What's different about these zombies? Why isn't this the same old zombie story, that Romero himself invented? You'll have to read this to find out!
What made this different for me, (and Romero did this in his films too,) was the focus on consumption and the American need to have everything, to have the best, to be better than the next. There was also a bit of climate change commentary in here. In fact, there was a good amount of philosophy within these pages. Does Mother Nature reach out to protect herself when she's used and abused? Does the world, or our environment, do the same? Does humanity need a reset button at times, to get things back to an even keel? Has this happened in the past? Will it happen the future? All valid questions to be sure.
Combine all these philosophical issues with a cast of characters that is truly memorable and you have yourself the nearly perfect novel that is THE LIVING DEAD. I found myself thinking about THE STAND quite a bit-there are some similarities: a large cast of characters to start, all in different places and situations across the United States. Of course the cast eventually come together and over the course of more than a decade we see how they've changed or not, as the case may be. Another thing these books have in common is that they both made this black heart cry. (Acocella will always have a place in my heart.) And never again will I hear about the La Brea Tar Pits and not shed a tear.
The only issue I had with this novel is that it is so long. Not that that's a bad thing, but I think a tiny bit could have been cut without damaging the story as a whole. For that I deducted half a star.
So, let's wrap up here! A novel of epic proportions? Check! A novel filled with characters that feel real and that the reader cares for? Check! Major differences in these zombies from the zombies populating so much of American culture? BIG check! A novel in which you can immerse yourself until you emerge, battered, but stronger for it? Check! I really loved this novel if you couldn't tell by now and I give it my highest recommendation!
One day you're at a little league game, a business meeting, or catching up on homework at the public library. The next, you're scowering for food in abandoned houses while constantly being pursued by The Living Dead. Survival takes on a whole new meaning when it comes to the end of civilization. Reader's follow along as Daniel Kraus introduces a modern take on the world George Romero crafted after his ghouls from The Night of the Living Dead consume the planet. This story is a collection of tales by those bold enough to face the dead and do anything to make it through the end of the world. You bear witness to events that shape this new civilization and see exactly what becomes of society after there's nothing left but rubble and nawed flesh.
#QOTD What would you do if you woke up one day and zombie ghouls were roaming the earth? Me, I would grab a machete or baseball bat and swing for the fences until my last breath. Never give up, never surrender.
I think a lot of us who are big fans of the zombie subgenre have asked ourselves that question and could spend DAYS explaining how we would survive the ghouls. That's what makes books like The Living Dead so compelling for readers. We can compare notes and work on our strategic plan to endure the zombie apocalypse. This though, this book is something else entirely. There is more to this ghoulish tale than the average zombie dystopian. Kraus touched on societal issues that are not only so incredibly important in current events but would also shape the way people started the new world after something as cataclysmic as a zombie outbreak. I appreciated the way Kraus set the bar for any book in the subgenre. This is certainly an epic tale that in my opinion will be a staple for anyone who loves zombies and the "new world order" that follows the visceral destruction they leave in their wake.
A modern take on the classic tale, Daniel Kraus maintained all the spirit of George Romero's story in the most epic way possible. I often find zombie stories more thrilling and although The Living Dead had that element, I found Romero's and Kraus's tale more terrifying. I HIGHLY recommend this book to anyone that is a fan of zombies, horror or if you're just looking for the ooey gooey good stuff, this one's for you. This was such a satisfying read and I'm so glad Romero's legacy can live on. Thank you Daniel Kraus for bringing his work to life for all of us that love The Living Dead.
The Living Dead by Daniel Kraus and George Romero ⭐⭐⭐⭐
While it seems like The Living Dead (the final novel begun by the father of zombie horror) is a chunk of a read, once I started, it flows and is paced quickly. This book is written seamlessly between authors Romero and Kraus. You may be familiar with the characters, and you may think you know where this is going, but it really surprised me in a good way.
I’m not a regular horror reader, and I’ll admit I’ve only watched some of The Living Dead. Yes, there are zombies, lots of zombies! Also, the familiar background and well-done storytelling is present. It’s still horrifying (it is horror, after all), but I’m happy to say I found a lot of heart and emotion here, too, much more than I thought there would be. Highly recommended, even if you are an occasional horror reader like me!
I received a gifted copy. All opinions are my own.
As antidote to a shitty apocalyptic book I'd read, I ran for cover with The Living Dead by Daniel Kraus, based on material by George A. Romero. Published in 2020, this is a long novel, inspired by notes that Kraus combed through to complete the book Romero had nibbled around for over 30 years, Romero being the filmmaker who made the original Night of the Living Dead in 1968 and spent intervening years hustling for financing for his next film (Dawn of the Dead in 1979 and Day of the Dead in 1985 are also classics). A novel would be pure unbridled 100% Romero, without budgetary restraints, but he never wrote it.
Did I mention this is a long novel? There's no such thing as a surplus of zombie activity, you might say, like there being no such thing as too much cheese, too much wine or too much Halle Berry. I beg to differ (sorry Ms. Berry!). I started flipping through the many character backstories and racing to see where the story would go. Once I realized that Kraus was memorializing Romero by fleshing out and exploring every scrap of paper his idol had left behind after his death in 2017, I decided to reread the book. I made it to the 20% mark, when a new year and new books tantalized more than a reread of this one did.
It's really good, though. There are several competing storylines here beginning on October 24 when the dead rise from eternal slumber to stalk after the living. Infected blood or saliva from a ghoul can kill a fresh victim in minutes or hours, after which they too rise from the dead to take up the extermination of the human race.
-- Statistician Etta Hoffman, nicknamed The Poet after Emily Dickinson by her co-workers at the U.S. Census Bureau, stays behind in the bunker-like building in D.C. to catalog the fall of civilization for whoever, or whatever, comes along next. Etta's aversion to social activity make her the best adapted to deal with the apocalypse and she cherishes her solitude, quickly tracing Patient Zero back to San Diego.
-- San Diego assistant medical examiner Luis Acocella witnesses the shooting death of a homeless man. Certain that the man's bullet wounds were non-fatal and the lead detective's pursuit of a murder case resulted in the vagrant's death, Acocella and his diener Charlene Rutkowski begin an autopsy.
-- High school student Greer Morgan watches the residents of Sunnybrook Mobile Home Resort (The Last Resort) in a Missouri shithole begin to attack each other in the morning fog. She barricades herself in her trailer and manages to escape with the help of a Syrian immigrant. All alone in the world, Greer encounters a musician who calls himself "Muse King" and becomes deadly with a bow and arrow. Muse King does not have the stomach to kill the living dead. Greer shows no such remorse.
-- At Atlanta-based WWN News, a bleeding heart news director named Nathan Baseman bids on video out of Chicago of a massacre in which the dead rise. His colleagues believe it to be gang related, but Baseman senses this is a 9/11 magnitude event. The only other person at the network who agrees is Chuck Corso, aka "The Face," a stoic, old school anchor who pledges to stay on the air, informing the public as long as he can.
-- Aboard the aircraft carrier USS Olympia, Master Chief Boatswain's Mate Karl Nishimura and a rookie pilot on her first deployment named Jenny Angelys Pagan survive the initial wave of living dead absorbing the crew only to face a cult that rises around the ship's chaplain Father Bill.
-- Etta Hoffman's office crush is the senior statistician, an athletic Brit named Annie Teller. Annie flees D.C. when the emergency becomes widespread, hoping to catch a flight to Los Angeles to reunite with her love at the La Brea Tar Pits. Annie makes it to Atlanta, where she's bitten by an infected woman. Rising from the dead, Annie is compelled by hunger and loneliness to pursue the living but also driven by a strange urge to keep heading west, to the La Brea Tar Pits.
There's a lot to like in The Living Dead:
-- Rather than monsters chasing thinly sketched victims around as we bop from one kill to the next, Kraus and Romero are fascinated by the people, their insecurities, their jobs, their moral dilemmas, how they react under pressure. Each character has a compelling job--working in a morgue, on an aircraft carrier, at a news station--or background. Main characters are women or Black or Asian or gay, so there are diverse points of view expressed here as opposed to the white male perspective only.
-- Kraus is also a terrific writer. His prose quite often blew me away. I really felt as if I was trapped living in a shithole trailer park with trashy neighbors and holes in the roof, or stationed on an aircraft carrier. I'm pretty sure I could perform an autopsy based on the many paragraphs devoted to vital organs and tools of the trade. I really appreciated the efforts Kraus took to get inside the "mind" of the living dead, which is an area that zombie movies or TV shows can't delve into beyond some grunting or growling.
You are hungry. You wake up. In that order.
This hunger is different from any you knew before. This hunger is a lack. Something has been taken away from you. You do not know what. This hunger is everywhere. Hunger, the fist. Hunger, the bones. Hunger, the flesh. Hunger, the brain. Hunger, in all the between places. It is your reason for waking up. It is the reason you move. It is the reason.
You look. Your eyesight is poor. There is a body next to yours. You smell it. It smells strong. You have a faint recollection of booze. You recognize the body. It used to be called Jean Cobb. Was Jean Cobb important? You do not know. Jean Cobb called you Scud. You remember this now. Here is the curious thing: Jean Cobb is no longer Jean Cobb. She is you. You are also you. You feel the hunger in both of you. The hunger is a thing that stretches outward. Feels around for more of you. But finds nothing. Only the Scud-you and the Jean-you. Only you you.
-- The Living Dead has details that will stay with me awhile. Greer is bitten, like most victims, very early in the outbreak as confusion reigns, but she lucks out that her attacker is an elderly park resident with toothless gums! I'd never seen that before. I also liked how condoms become second in value only to food and water as Greer wants to have a lot of sex with her traveling partner Muse King but hardly wants to end up with an STD or pregnant with all the hospitals closed. A subtle Planned Parenthood PSA. I approve.
-- On a personal note, it was invigorating to discover that even a talent like George A. Romero struggled for 30 years to write a novel and couldn't get more than a couple of chapters on paper. It makes my writing process look like Le Mans. In the afterword, Kraus dives into the legend surrounding Romero's unpublished novel and how in 2000, he experimented with publishing a chapter at a time on the web, but quickly ran out of resolve to see that through. I wasn't rooting for the man to fail but it was validating to see how difficult it is for any novelist to take the ideas or aspirations racing through them and fashion them into a coherent narrative on paper.
I'm docking The Living Dead one star because Kraus never truly brings his characters together to have them face anything as compelling as their mere survival did up to that point. There's a fifteen year time jump, which disrupts the narrative and I tend to dislike. I started ripping through the last 25% of the book, needing it to be over. Sometimes, less is best. It seemed to me that the Etta Hoffman character, maybe the Greer Morgan character and possibly the undead Annie Teller deserved their own novels. The Stand was a doorstopper but The Living Dead is hoarded stuff piled all the way to the ceiling.
Trivia: The original distributor of Night of the Living Dead, the Walter Reade Organization, was so bush league that when they changed the title from Night of the Flesh Eaters, they forgot to copyright the new title. This immediately entered the movie into public domain! Romero lost millions of dollars over the years. That was the bad news. The good news is that it costs nothing for other filmmakers to license his film. Thus, when another movie or TV series needs to have something playing on a screen, there's a good chance it'll be Night of the Living Dead.
My thanks to Macmillan/Tor Forge. I honestly couldn't tell you where Romero left off and where Kraus began. Thing is that this is a huge book. It's an extremely long story. I once thought at the beginning that me and this huge monstrosity would not get along! Boy, was I wrong! I expected zombie horror. I did get that. What I came away with though, is heart. Not undead heart..well, kind of that too! I'm just talking about the one thing that I love most. I knew these characters. I knew where they were from, and I knew their lost loves, and their why's! Turns out that the why was pretty important. The Face is the one that I would have loved. Its difficult to say anything about the end. I know that most would think some of it was inevitable. I am often bamboozled at how some authors think it may end. And, there are some scenes that feel true. That's just about the damndest thing of all! Humanity. Such a despicable bunch. I did love how this story ended. We are me, and me is you, and we are one! "You'll understand this if you read the book. "This story touched my heart. Not something I was expecting, but, there you go. Straight up, if you are expecting tons of zombies? There is a lot here. Expecting dodging and weaving? Nope. History. Hatred. Back stories? Yep! All the Zombies are there, but best of all? Yep, that IMHO is the people. Their stories and background. Man, I love that stuff..
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Without George A. Romero's work, what would our framework for Zombie literature and movies look like? It's something to think about. Romero passed away in 2017, leaving his Zombie novel unfinished. THE LIVING DEAD, a story formed in the mind of a man who invented ghoulish lore as we know it... ...finished by New York Times best selling author, Daniel Kraus definitely generates high expectations. .. I had the pleasure of interviewing Daniel Kraus: https://nightworms.com/blogs/news/nig...
I asked about the logistics of finishing the book and he had this to say: "It's a much harder question to answer than you'd think! It's not sequential; in other words, it's not like he wrote the first part and I wrote the second part. George's writing is present all throughout, from the first sentence to the last. My best estimate is he wrote 1/3 of the book, but that's not including the notes and other material where he plotted out where some of the book was headed."
Keeping this tidbit tucked away in my mind as I read this, I feel like I could hear Romero's storytelling voice throughout; which is a weird thing to say given I have never read anything by Romero but there is something strikingly unique about the way Kraus was able to amplify Romero without diminishing his own voice. It's hard to explain and something I'm sure other readers will notice for themselves.
The book starts off establishing an outbreak-which was eerie to experience during our own global pandemic. I started this book in May 2020, having just started social distancing/quarantine mid-March. As the story developed to include the government's response to the spreading virus, I marveled at how the book I was reading was so strikingly prophetic. Although, for the sake of horror entertainment, the pace of the action is so much faster than in real life. From the first John Doe case to full-blown apocalyptic chaos is a relatively short leap, which is awesome!
Given the scope of this book (15 freaking years!), there are a lot of characters. It's a lot to keep up with at first but I had this sense, while I was reading, of intentionality and I knew that each character would be given purpose through development and I was right. There are two medical examiners, Luis and Charleen who are exposed to that first John Doe who dies and comes back. Greer, a Black high school student trapped by ghouls in her trailer. Hoffman, a news anchor, who has taken shelter and is detailing events from a studio. And then in a stroke of storytelling genius, there is this aircraft carrier with living and dead sailors trapped together--I loved the scenes on the Olympia! In fact, I would never be able to pick which group of people or person I enjoyed following the most. Well, I lied. I love Greer. Her story was very emotional for me. The way the reader is transported back and forth from one situation to the next to watch different storylines develop reminded me of other epic apocalyptic narratives like THE STAND by Stephen King or SWAN SONG by Robert McCammon.
Perhaps the most identifying theme of THE LIVING DEAD is humanity. There's the audience: we who are reading THE LIVING DEAD and engaging with it as we find ourselves full of our own pandemic emotions and anxieties while we are reading about these protagonists we become invested in as they try to survive. Then there are the Zombies themselves--I don't want to say too much about them or give a very detailed account, because I think Romero & Kraus did something entirely unique and special with the Zombies--I don't want to damage any reading discoveries. Just trust me when I say, the Zombies are the best part of this book--as they should be!
My only minor complaint, and it's a small one, is that this book is too long. Plain and simple. I'm almost 100% sure this is due to the fact that Kraus had all this material from Romero and most likely wanted to utilize as much as he possibly could in order to fill this story out with its original voice--anyone would be hard pressed to trim back Romero's work, right? That being said, there were some lulls and I found myself skimming forward a little bit to catch up to some kind of action in order to get through some chapters.
But I loved this book. This is quintessential zombie apocalypse storytelling. THE LIVING DEAD will now and forever join the ranks of books I recommend if a reader wants to take a deep dive into humanity's fight to survive against overwhelming, horrific odds.
Thank you, Tor for this early review copy in exchange for review consideration.
3.5 Stars - Epic Zombie Fiction Video Review: https://youtu.be/4b_JzeFjavY The beginning of this book was absolute perfection. The first characters introduced were well developed, diverse and likeable. As someone who enjoys body horror, I loved the initial setting inside the morgue. Those scenes felt very well researched because they were so vivid and detailed. Nothing in this book was particularly graphic, but there was a level of gore that just exists within zombie fiction.
Just to be clear, this is not a novalization, but rather a brand new story from the famous director. Regrettably, I was not able to watch Romero’s films before reading this book, but I certainly intend to check them out soon. This book felt very cinematic, which was not surprising given the authors' experience with the film industry.
Personally, I wanted more zombies. A lot of horror readers despise the zombie subgenre, but I love some good scenes involving the undead. The book was very character focused, which was generally fine. I just think there was room for more zombie appearances. There were numerous parts of the story that barely mentioned the zombie pandemic and I found myself searching for them on the page. There were a few chapters written from the perspective of the zombies, which I really enjoyed. Those narrative viewpoints were just so engaging and unique.
While I enjoyed a lot of aspects of this novel, I felt like it did not completely come together. As a co-authored book, I had no idea how the two authors' writing was combined. Certain sections, like the beginning and the zombie viewpoint chapters, really stood out, which made me wonder if they were the original material. The later sections of the book just felt a bit muddle and disorganized. This book was very long and I felt like it suffered from some meandering plots. The story was told from multiple perspectives and some were much more engaging than others.
So while I did not end up loving this one as much as I hoped, there was still a lot to appreciate. I would recommend this book primarily to those readers that enjoy epic horror books that incorporate multiple perspectives and storylines. This is the kind of zombie fiction that I would recommend to those that do not normally read the subgenre. Instead, this book is much more of a character-focused narrative, which happened to be told against the backdrop of a worldwide zombie pandemic.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this book.
I'm not normally drawn to plots involving zombies but I was intrigued by the background of how this book came to be written so I gave this once a chance. Glad I did as it was entertaining and helped me step out of my reading comfort zone a bit. Always good to mix things up every once in awhile.
Night of the Living Dead is a famous film, written and directed by George A. Romero. He started writing this novel, The Living Dead, but died before it was completed. Daniel Kraus, an author and huge fan of Romero's work, was tasked with finishing the novel. The Author's Note at the end of this book is worth reading as it gives you more insight about the writing process.
At over 600 pages, I was a bit nervous diving into this book as it's a pretty big time commitment. Thankfully, the pacing is quick and I never felt like the story dragged on. I think it helps the story bounces around between quite a few characters. So you develop an interest in seeing how the different storylines play out as well as seeing if there eventually will be some time of connection.
Given I don't have much experience with reading anything zombie related, I can't say where this one stacks up against other books of this nature. For me, it was a fun,escape from real life type read which was much needed at the moment. Although to be fair after the craziness of 2020, perhaps a zombie apocalypses isn't quite out of the realm of possibilities.
Thank you to Tor Books for sending me a copy! All thoughts expressed are my honest opinion.
Daniel Kraus had big shoes to fill when George Romero's widow honored him with the request of finishing this novel after his passing. He honored his legacy magnificently and the baton was well passed. A ton happened (over 27hrs. listening time) and I have to re-listen because I know I missed things over the duration. Writing is smart, witty, thought-provoking, compassionate and (of course) fantastically gruesome.
Mr. Kraus's 40+ minute afterword was amazing. Learned so much inside info. about Mr. Romero - fav books, movies, why he has the survivors heading to Canada, his thoughts on getting older (Wrote a movie called 'The Amusement Park" in which getting older is the focus - love to find this one.) Mr. Romero had so many other projects, pursuits and interests well beyond zombie movies and I thank Mr. Kraus for letting us get to a little peek into his personal life - such as learning he had a profound, deep appreciation and respect for his "legions" of fans - would not miss a book signing even when incredibly ill because fans meant the world to him. #Epic
Thanks also to the incredible narrators who made the book come to life. Well done.
I use to love reading books with massive page counts but these days its hard for me to read big books. Maybe its just old age(I'll be 35 in December) but I'm super intimidated by books with more than say 400 pages.
That's why it took me so long to finish this book. I always enjoyed it when I actually picked it up to read it. No matter how much time passed I could easily pick each plot back up. I wasn't even bothered by the fact that this book had a lot A LOT of characters ( you know how annoyed I am by huge character counts). The writing was top notch and even when I wasn't reading it, I still wanted to.
The Living Dead is about the rise of zombies and the long lasting effects it has on civilization. Taking place over 15 years The Living Dead like most zombie stories is less about the "undead" and more about how people can be both awful and hopeful in a time of crisis. I've never watched the show The Walking Dead but I've been told that its not the zombies that you need to worry about.
This was the brainchild of horror master George A Romero. Romero is most famous for the classic zombie movie Night of the Living Dead. Romero had apparently been working on this story for over 30 years but died before his vision could be completed, so writer Daniel Kraus was brought in to bring this story over the finish line.
I got the feeling that Kraus took Romero's basic outline and then wrote his own story the way he thought Romero would have.
The Living Dead is a beast of a book but I never felt like it dragged. I would definitely recommend this to true horror lovers!
What a waste of potential. I started out reading this and was really excited. The first few chapters were phenomenal and I was already thinking that this might surpass World War Z for the best zombie novel. Apparently, this was about the point that George Romero's manuscript ended and the new author took over.
Let's break the book down. Act One covers a little over 400 pages and details the first eleven days of the outbreak. Act Two is about 35 pages and handles the following eleven years. In Act Three, we skip another five years and covers one day.
I don't even have the energy right now to get into this in detail. Act One is about 200 pages longer than it should be. Most of the news and aircraft carrier sections should be cut out. The infestation of the aircraft carrier is comically stupid and implausible. The first bad guy appears in this section. He's a chaplain that goes crazy with lust after reading a pornographic magazine for the first time. Seriously.
I feel like the cable news section was included just so that the Megyn Kelly stand in could get her throat ripped out (not by a zombie, just a producer she was arguing with). The whole section could have been removed and substituted with scenes where other characters are watching or discussing the news (some of which is already there). We also get the most unbelievable escape and survival scene since Glenn surviving "Dumpster-gate" from the Walking Dead tv show.
Act Two spends a little time covering the highlights of each of the 11 years. This part felt like it came from an outline for what George Romero intended the middle of the book to be. Instead, we pretty much just got the outline. This means we missed out on zombie chimpanzees, rats, dogs, chickens, elephants and dolphins. How the hell do you mention these and not even include them in the book other than, a couple throwaway lines talking about them? It never really explains how the animals become infected. Zombies only attack/eat humans and horses, so I guess these animals just revive as zombies whenever they die.
Act Three is the most mind boggling part of the book. After 15 years, most of the zombies are so decomposed they're barely mobile and no longer a threat (unless you stick your hand in one of their mouths. Yes, a main character does this after surviving 15 years). All of our survivors now live in a Buddhist commune in Toronto, Canada. Toronto. Canada. Everyone knows during an end of the world situation with no electricity, you want to move to where the winter temperatures get down to -20 degrees. Apparently, it doesn't affect the escaped zoo giraffes now living there, even though I'm not sure what they're eating during the winter. Everyone has also become vegetarian for reasons. Supposedly, they were worried about new animals having the zombie virus but couldn't wait after a kill to see if the animal revived? Everyone has decided how great the zombie apocalypse was and how horrible humanity is. For some reason, they haven't decided to go full Jim Jones and drink the poisoned Kool-aid, but I don't know why. They all seem to think that people are the worst thing ever, but don't do anything about it. Despite thinking people are the worst thing ever, they've bricked up all of their guns. Maybe they're just waiting for someone to come wipe them out. They even have hospice set up for zombies who are so decayed they can no longer move. Everything is dragged out, and never ends and I don't care at this point. The best characters died in Act One and I feel like we're left with the supporting cast.
Act Three also contains interviews of all the main characters where they talk about what happened in the last 15 years and how they ended up in the settlement. Again, these read like outlines with plot ideas that were never developed. The interviews are fairly short and light on details. Again, if these stories were fleshed out, told live and included with the Act Two highlights, it would have made for a much better novel. As the novel exists now, there is almost no character development from Act One to Act Three. The characters are older and have been thru hell, but act the exact same. Other than they don't eat meat and love zombies, now.
I saved the worst for last. This book is so hit you over the head political that it's really hard to stay focused on the book. Yes, George Romero has always had political aspects to the movies (homelessness, consumerism) but they've been somewhat subtle. This book is about as subtle as a brick to the face. Everyone is racist. Men are the worst. America is evil. San Diegans blame and attack Mexicans for causing the outbreak. Missourians do the same with Syrian refugees in their town. At this point in the novel, it's all over the news that this is a world wide event, so it doesn't really make sense in the context of the story. There's a "cult" that is briefly talked about in an interview called the Patriots. This horrible cult apparently goes around and clears the local area of zombies and places little American flags in the ground where they've wiped out the zombies. That's it. Oh, they also have women in domestic roles, other than when the female character recounting this story goes out with them on zombie killing missions. They don't kill the women or rape them beat them or enslave them. They have them cook. Definitely worse than the zombies. Not convinced on the lack of subtlety? Here's a couple lines from the book:
"What says "U.S.A." like a car? Henry Ford lived right here in the good ol' U.S.A., remember. He was also racist. American to the core, right?"
"We were killing beings who'd invaded our country, who were trying to replace our culture with their own." (yes, they're talking about zombies in that one)
"Trump International Hotel, apparently having been built of the chintziest material, was gone from the skylines."
"The zombies aren't the virus. We are."
"Even before [the zombie apocalypse], Canada had tempted Americans aching for a land where guns weren't handed out like candy and a genetic disease wouldn't bankrupt you."
These were just a few lines I remembered off the top of my head and looked up. There are lots more like them in the book. I'm still not finished yet, because the pages in Act Three multiply quicker than zombies. Every time I think I'm almost done, I realize I still have 100+ pages to go. I haven't wanted to stop reading a book this bad in awhile, but I've gone this far and don't like to review books that I don't finish.
Cont'd. It only gets worse. The final big bad winds up being a Donald Trump stand in. Just in case you don't realize who he's supposed to represent, the author mentions the characters name and Trump International Hotel in the same or adjacent sentences multiple times. Honestly, it would have been easier and almost as subtle to just name the character Ronald Crump. He gets the community riled up because they don't have any kind of defense against other groups and they've sealed away all their weapons. He kind of raises a good point. We know from the flashback interviews that there are plenty of bad groups out there; lots of people know about the community in Canada and some group has been actively scouting the area. Yeah, the guy is an asshole, but he has some valid concerns. He riles the crowd up and they go full mob and kill some prisoners (group members who got high, stole some food and beat two people that caught them nearly to death) before deciding to go after the local zombies. (During this section, the author seems to emphasize the word "American" a lot. I'm not sure what he's trying to say.) The zombies and local, living wildlife (including the giraffe) stage a peace march (seriously), but the mob kills the zombies anyway. The animals were hanging out at the fringe and knew to run away while they had a chance. Oh yeah, the person who stuck her hand in a zombie's mouth. She died and came back as a regular person and no new zombies after that. Honestly, the book just keeps getting dumber. I'm still not even done yet. This might actually be the longest 100 pages I've ever read in my life.
Here's another quote from the book for you:
"She was Black. She carried a weapon. She should not have been surprised to feel a bullet punch into her side..."
She should not have been surprised because ten pages earlier, she used that weapon to kill Ronald Crump. If you kill the leader of the mob, the mob is going to turn against you and skin color has nothing to do with it.
It's finally over. Ultimately, I gave this two stars because the beginning was so good. At the end of the day, this is really two books masquerading as one. I have a feeling the beginning stuff was all George Romero and the end was mostly Daniel Krause. The bloat and stuff that didn't seem to fit in the second half of the beginning I'm going to assume is mostly added by Krause, so he can get to his own story in the third act.
You could kind of see that Romero was going to use the racism at the very beginning to point out how stupid racism is when faced with bigger problems. We all have more in common with each other than with the zombies. Instead, in the end, they acted like zombies were regular people with a different belief system. I kept waiting for someone to refer to them as Zombie-Americans.
In the Romero section at the beginning, they set it up that Ronald Crump was behind the outbreak or in cahoots with who was. Then, when he showed back up, he just happened to be hanging out with some coroners and military higher ups when they started getting phone calls about the dead coming back. He was just in the right place at the right time to get a heads up.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
'You have always been the living dead. You will always be. It was the coming of death that allowed you to live.'
Okay, for some reason it felt curiously comforting to read a horror novel during lockdown where the bulk of the human population is mysteriously transformed into the living (un)dead. (There is a beautiful pun contained in the title that only comes into its own at the end.)
We think we have problems with Covid-19 … wait until you have to deal with a horde of slavering zombies. Co-writer Daniel Kraus includes a lengthy and fascinating essay at the end entitled ‘Stay Scared: a Coauthor’s Note’ wherein he explains his fascination with and appreciation of George Romero.
The genesis of the novel itself was a long-nurtured dream of Romero in which he thought his imagination could be truly unfettered: ‘No one had to give him a green light. No one could force rewrites via a slashed budget. No one could make him to cut his best effects to protect the sensibilities of a delicate populace.’
Kraus managed to stumble across 100 pages of a much earlier draft called ‘The Death of Death’, some of which he tut-tuts had no place in a series zombie novel of the kind that Romero ultimately envisaged.
This included: … a bonkers sequence in which a woman is rescued from ritual genital mutilation only for her rescuer to crash their getaway jeep and be thrown into a river, whereupon he turns zombie and starts after her, only to be suddenly ripped apart by hippopotamuses. Yes, it does sound like a Dwayne Johnson movie, doesn’t it?
Then Romero discovered that writing a book was actually bloody hard work, which meant the project languished until his unfortunate death from cancer. Kraus did meet Romero and his agent Chris Roe to discuss a potential collaboration, but nothing came of this until well after Romero had passed away.
Kraus explains he was collaborating with Guillermo del Toro on ‘The Shape of Water’ when Roe phoned him up to propose what can only be described as a dream assignment: “… completing the epic zombie novel George had left unfinished.”
I can only imagine the combination of terror and awe that Kraus must have felt at this precise moment. The fact that he knows everything there is to know about Romero and his zombie legacy – and I do mean everything – is one thing.
But how to translate all of this effectively into a novel, of all things, that still felt, er, fresh and alive after so many, many different adaptations in a range of media (was there ever a Broadway musical, I wonder?)
The fact that The Living Dead is such an instant classic is that not only does Kraus adhere closely to the zombie lore introduced in the original Night of the Living Dead movie, he also takes a leaf out of such classic apocalypse novels like The Stand (and more recently Wanderers by Chuck Wendig): Adhere closely to a key group of characters across disparate storylines, and slowly intertwine these until they tangle together … often in the most unexpected ways.
This was an exhausting read not only due to its considerable length (and yet there is not a wasted scene), but because it was such an unexpectedly emotional read. The end section especially, which depicts the ‘evolution’ of the zombies as it were while the planet resets itself after the apocalypse, was a pleasant revelation.
Usually disaster movies and novels like these opt for a Big Finale; Kraus goes against the grain by focusing on introspection and revelation, which makes his unusual choice for the ending all the more transcendent.
Make no mistake though, this is still a hugely enjoyable read: Grimly funny throughout, there are huge setpieces and little bits-and-bobs of outright horror that will make even the most hardened zombie fan blanch.
I was excited to read this book, because I loved the Dawn of the Living Dead and I think that George Romero pretty much invented the zombie apocalypse genre. So I was eager to start the book as soon as I got the ARC from NetGalley, but my excitement soon turned into bewilderment, the disappointment.
First of all, this book is way too long at 700 pages and it feels a lot longer when you read it. At least 250 pages could have been safely cut without loosing any plot, which says something. In all the chapters, action scenes are constantly interrupted by characters' introspection, flashbacks, and philosophical musings. The worst offender is the scene of their "softie" recovery towards the end of the book which is interspersed verbal accounts by all characters present of how they got to that particular point in time. This makes this one scene last over 100 pages! It could have been tense and heart-pounding, or even deep and poignant, considering their mission, instead it's a snooze fest. When we finally reached the end of that scene, I wasn't even sure why the characters were there anymore or why I should have cared.
That's another problem - of all the impressive cast or characters, I could maybe sorta care for about one or two, and even that is pushing it. To my growing disappointment, almost all the characters I cared about died in the early stages of the book. I would have much rather followed Jenny than Nakamura, especially considering the stupid way she died and that we had to then follow the story of the person who killed her.
The biggest problem though is that when George Romero died, somebody else had to finish the book, and the two parts do no gel well, at least in my opinion. And you can clearly see where the original book ended and the new chapters began - instead of continuing the story in its logical progression, the new author chose to jump 15 years ahead. That wouldn't have been too bad. A lot of books use this plot device, after all. Unfortunately, it doesn't work well here.
I was expecting at least some kind of character growth or change between the two parts of the book. After all, nobody stays the same during 15 years. Heck, I'm not the same person I was 15 years ago, and I didn't have to live through a zombie apocalypse. But these characters, it's like they were frozen in time for those 15 years. NOTHING changed for them. They still act the same, have the same motivations or quirks, heck, some of them are still hung up about a lover they lost 15 years ago. That's why the two parts don't gel for me. You tell us over a decade has past, yet you don't SHOW us that, not with your characters.
And that's the biggest problem of the second part of the book for me. Because of that time jump, instead of following the characters through their struggles in this brave new world past the initial days of the zombie uprising, we have to listen to them recount the experience... as a series of interviews. This is the classic mistake of tell, not show. Sure, some authors managed to use this technique brilliantly (just think of World War Z, which is nothing but interviews and verbal accounts of things that already happened), but it DOESN'T WORK here. Sure, the characters are telling these stories, but as a reader, I am not emotionally invested in them, especially considering that the sometimes horrible things they recount didn't seem to change them at all.
So by the time I got through the interviews and the slog of a "softie" recovery scene, I wasn't really invested in the book anymore. Why should I care about Richard and the vote for the leader of Old Muddy? I didn't get a chance to follow the characters while they met and bonded and built that settlement, so I wasn't emotionally invested in the stakes anymore. I finished the book, but at that point it was out of cheer stubbornness - I was 85% done and didn't want to quit this close to the end.
To summarize, this is an over-written, disjointed and disappointing book. The only reason I gave it 2 stars instead of 1 is because there was one glorious chapter that I absolutely loved - the chapter with Greer at the trailer park in the very beginning of the book. That was scary, heart-pounding and horrible just like the best zombie books should be. Too bad that nothing that happened afterwards would even come close.
Let me start off by saying I'm a HUGE fan of George A. Romero, particularly of his Living Dead films. DAY OF THE DEAD is in the top five of my favorite films of all time. I even have a soft spot for his final Dead movies, DIARY OF THE DEAD and SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD. So, when I heard that there was an epic novel coming from George and his posthumous collaborator, Daniel Kraus, set in the world of his Dead films, I couldn't hit the pre-order trigger fast enough. Now, after having read it, I'm really wishing I would have never bothered.
Billed as "epic" and "landmark" and other marketing buzzwords, THE LIVING DEAD is anything but. What it is, however, is an overlong, tedious slog through a zombie scenario done a million times before and done better. It starts at the beginning of the zombie outbreak and bounces between a diverse cast of characters about as they try to grapple with this new, horrifying, reality. Author Daniel Kraus, who does the bulk of the heavy lifting here, having worked off notes and partial manuscripts left behind by George, admittedly does a great job with the gore but fails miserably at everything else. His prose isn't good. It's extremely wordy and stuffed full of pointless asides that do nothing to advance the overall story. The cast of characters, while diverse, are nothing more than caricatures. You've got the rebellious young Black girl, the gay Asian navy officer, the tough-as-nails White chick, the sensitive musician, etc, etc. Beyond these labels there's nothing of substance to them and little to care about.
The book's structure is also a massive problem. The novel opens at the start of the zombie plague and it's here that the book is at it's best. Kraus manages to craft a couple cool set-pieces, including the assault at the trailer park and the carnage filled chaos aboard the naval battle ship, but is unfortunately unable to maintain the suspense and tension generated from them, skipping ahead ten years and then another five shortly after that, telling us rather than showing us all of the events that have happened between. This destroys any character development that he might have been able to build as we're told why we should care about these people rather than shown through their actions. It's a huge mistake and the novel never recovers. Kraus injects plenty of social commentary into his tale, same as Romero did with his, but done in such an on-the-nose way that it blunts any effectiveness it might have had.
Your mileage will probably vary with THE LIVING DEAD, and I know that Romero fans will want to get their hands on this regardless, but there are a ton of other books out there that pay homage to the world Romero created much better than THE LIVING DEAD. Brian Keene's THE RISING series, Robert Kirkman's THE WALKING DEAD, Jonathan Maberry's DEAD/FALL OF NIGHT, along with his YA ROT AND RUIN series, D.J. Molles THE REMAINING, etc. If you haven't read any of those, give them a try as they hit the zombie sweet spot much better than this one.
In 2017, the man known as the father of the zombie film George A. Romero passed away from lung cancer, leaving his novel unfinished. But thanks to the efforts of his estate and co-author Daniel Kraus, this final project, the 700-page opus that is The Living Dead was able to find its way into readers’ hands.
Like so many big things, this book’s story started out small: with a single death. On the night of October 23, like any other night, medical examiner Dr. Luis Accocola and his assistant Charlene “Charlie” Rutkowski headed in to work at the morgue to see to a John Doe who was brought in earlier in the evening. But as it turns out, there is something wrong with this particular body—namely, the fact that it isn’t exactly…well, dead.
Soon, this crisis of the dead coming back to life begins spreading across the globe, with the reanimated corpses relentlessly targeted the living, adding to their numbers. In Washington DC, a statistician and researcher named Etta Hoffman receives news of patient zero and, recognizing it as the spark that creates a wildfire, begins to put together a detailed timeline documenting what is the beginning of the end of the world. Meanwhile, in a trailer park in Missouri, teenager Greer Morgan steps out her door on the way to school, only to find a scene of nightmare unfolding on her front steps. As her neighbors tear each other apart, she barely manages to escape. Elsewhere, in a newsroom in Atlanta, anchorman Chuck Corso is barely holding it together as he watches the complete destruction of the country happening right in front his eyes, but undead hordes be damned, he resolves to continue broadcasting the news as it comes in, even if doesn’t know whether his reports will reach anyone. And finally, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, US Navy officer Karl Nishimura also watches in horror as he and his crew aboard the aircraft carrier Olympia become overrun by zombies, leading to a complete breakdown of the chain of command.
Although there are many more viewpoints scattered here and there to flesh out the narrative, most of the novel’s sprawling scope is provided by this handful of main characters. From the way you are made to care about them, to the way we’re allowed to witness the undead apocalypse from its beginning to its aftermath, I was somewhat reminded of Stephen King’s The Stand in terms of the story’s sheer scale and complexity. And the more I thought about it, the fact that this book was written by two authors, with Kraus completing what Romero started, became more and more impressive. For the most part, things flowed well with far fewer hiccups than you would expect from a project published posthumously after the main creator’s death. While Kraus is no stranger to collaborations, this one must have presented unique challenges, the least of them being to decide what Romero might have intended for the direction of his novel. Because of this, the author’s note at the end was a fascinating read into the process.
As for my thoughts on The Living Dead, I am one of course to enjoy a good zombie story every now and then, but what I loved most about this one was the way it felt so personal. Sure, with regards to the amount of blood and gore we have our share of both and more, but what I also delighted in was the intimate treatment of the individual characters and moments spent with them in their quieter, more introspective moments. This is a story about how our society might react to a horrible crisis, but it also explores actions and motivations of the individual. The result is a fuller experience with a book that’s as much about people as it is the zombie apocalypse, and if you’ve ever watched a zombie film wishing there had been more of that balance, then this is most certainly for you.
In terms of criticisms, well, there’s no getting around the fact that this is a long book, and as with most veritable tomes following an ensemble cast, you inevitably run into issues with pacing and maybe a few time jumps that don’t go so swimmingly. To be fair, many of these issues also stem from the novel’s structure, which is both a strength and a weakness. Comprised of multiple parts, it reads like a retrospective chronicling of events long past, allowing for the level of attention to detail I enjoyed, though it also robs the storytelling of a sense of urgency. While some of these problems can’t be helped, a few sections didn’t even feel like they had much of a plot, floating around like lost little islands in a great narrative sea (though I did wonder if this might just be an unavoidable side effect trying to put together a whole from unfinished pieces) and when you follow so many characters, some of them will also start to feel more interesting than others.
Still, I always try to evaluate a book as a whole, and I think there’s a beauty to the way all these disparate threads ultimately came together for the climax. The ending is raw, bitter, harsh…and in my opinion, completely apt. Plus, it’s not difficult to overlook a few faults when the overall the novel is so diligently put together and epic.
All in all, even in the face of its hefty length, The Living Dead was a worthwhile read and a must-have for every zombie enthusiast and George A. Romero fan, which probably doesn’t need to be said. Offering a deeper, more expansive and intricate story than anything you could show on a movie screen, this novel represents an incredible effort by Daniel Kraus to interpret and consolidate Romero’s ideas, which culminated in a final product that lives up to the legendary filmmaker’s vision.
"We needed to end the patriarchy" is a character quote from this book that nicely sums up the main theme (besides there also being zombies). Picture a zombie apocalypse through the eyes of 2020 progressive identity politics. To put it succinctly an alternate title for this book may be "Zombie apocalypse meets progressive wokeism".
Here is a synopsis: Cops are jerks; priest is a pervert (and ends up making his own religion); homeowners association guy is racist to black members; female naval aviator isn't getting promoted due to sexism; xenophobes blaming Syrian refugees (and Hispanics) for the zombie outbreak; a school shooting; Climate Change being addressed-"we died so the planet can live"; a "patriot group" that plants American flags, and blows up towns, keeping women enslaved (worry not, one of these women is saved by the female zombies she released from a battered women's shelter - I can't make stuff like this up);... etc. - With how overbearing the social justice activism is in this book, it makes me wonder whether the author wanted me to sympathize with the zombies.
The best part of the book is the afterward. The second best is an anthology, of sorts, of survivor stories. But not long before it veers to Americans wanting to go to Toronto due to its diversity. The straw that broke the camels back for me was the safe haven walled city (probably pained the author to have to symbolically admit that building walls wasn't xenophobic in this instance) whose inhabitants locked up all their firearms behind layers of concrete so that no one can access these evil tools in the future. As if both human (and zombie apocalypse) history doesn't show that unarmed societies will eventually fall prey to armed human marauders (if not zombies as well). I won't even get into "Zombie hospices". This is the first zombie book I've read where I ended up rooting for the zombies.
As a general rule I feel the longer a book is the better it needs to be, due to the added time I'm investing into it. My end feeling is- twenty seven hours wasted.
Horrifying! A crawl out of your skin story. Unlike the movies, this book is an entirely new novel. Although a little lengthy, the storyline will keep you engaged.
It begins in the morgue where the medical examiner and his assistant are horrified and terrorized by the reanimation of a recently deceased man. A dead man that has come back to life and wants to eat them.
Elsewhere in a small trailer park, a young girl can't believe that her family and neighbors have died and come back to life as zombies. Zombies or ghouls that want to devour her.
And so it goes. The dead and dying are transformed into a miasma of animated decaying flesh...the undead.
How does it end? Do the zombies overtake the earth? Does humanity survive? Who lives and who dies? Find out what happens to everyone is this epic horror novel.
Thank you to BookishFirst and Tor/Forge for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for my honest review.
The Living Dead is a sprawling, massive, and mostly entertaining read, but it's also a frustrating, nearly-700 page testament to just how little life -- and originality -- remains in the zombie genre. It's been more than 50 years since George A. Romero first shocked audiences with his then-highly controversial black and white movie, Night of the Living Dead, but after five additional movies, plus ten years of Robert Kirkman’s and AMC’s The Walking Dead and assorted spin-off television series (not to mention sixteen years worth of comics and a handful of video games), and countless other zombie flicks and books, including Brian Keene's uber-popular Bram Stoker Award-winning 2003 novel, The Rising and its spate of sequels, it's become abundantly clear that this particular horror niche is dead.
Yet, like the zombies themselves, this particular genre continues to lurch on, its tropes transgressing to cliche as the human survivors of these undead wastelands attempt to figure out all the things its audiences know all-too well by now. We know that as surely as you kill a vampire by staking it through the heart, you must kill the zombie by shooting it in the head. We're supposed to find suspense in characters fumbling their way into discovering all the rote genre trappings that have been ingrained in us for decades and suspend our disbelief enough to buy into a world where these characters have never even heard of a zombie. More likely, you'll be shouting at the book, demanding the characters to stop being stupid and shoot that shambling corpse in the head already! To the dozens of characters we follow in The Living Dead, everything that is new to them is an old, worn out hat to us, and not even Romero and Kraus can find much of a pulse in these discoveries as they work their way, in checklist fashion, from one worn out conceit to the next.
By forcing a reboot on the Romero legacy of the zombie outbreak, only scantly predating Night of the Living Dead, there's not much to be had in the way of originality or innovative ideas here. The characters and the contexts they're placed in are, at least, interesting enough, despite being overly familiar. If you're a regular reader of apocalyptic narratives or zombie books in general, you're likely to find these elements irritatingly familiar, and it almost becomes a bit of a guessing game to name off all the other books that have trod similar ground previously.
The Living Dead is divided into three acts. The bulk of Act One is relayed in mosaic fashion as we're introduced to a large number of disparate characters operating in their own disconnected environments. There's a pair of star-crossed morgue workers, the men and women of WNN broadcasting, the Navy crew operating aboard the floating island of an aircraft carrier, the Olympia, and a teenage girl who wakes up to find her trailer park neighbors in a sudden war against the undead.
Taking up more than half of the book's entire page count, Act One eventually devolves into a slog of familiarity as well-worn plot devices are repurposed and only occasionally given if not a face lift, then a minor bit of nip and tuck here and there. Act Two, blessedly, is much shorter and far more interesting as it condenses more than a decade of post-zombie apocalypse history into a handful of pages, moving us beyond the chronology of Romero’s films as depicted in Land of the Dead and Day of the Dead. Act Three takes us a full fifteen years into the future, with the survivors from the preceding acts attempting to establish a new civilization.
For as much as The Living Dead aggravated me, and too often left me yearning for other books to read despite being bound and determined to finish this damn epic, there were a number of high points to be found. Even if the parallels the authors’ attempt to draw between cell phones, social media, and zombification feel a bit too much like Old Man Yells At Clouds syndrome (and the simple fact that Stephen King already wrote that book with 2006’s Cell), their explorations of human nature and our place within the ecosystem, and their ruminations on the environment we all populate, were refreshingly thoughtful and welcome. I have no doubt, too, that a number of other readers will decry this hefty tome for being “too political,” outing themselves as a Johnny-come-lately to the works of George A. Romero, zombie fiction in general, and horror in particular. Make no mistake, it certainly is political, deliberately and keenly so. To me, this is a welcome aspect and plays a central role to the book’s theme. One character, Etta Hoffman, is responsible for cataloging the zombie apocalypse and recording the stories of these survivors, capturing the particular sentiments of a time and place, which just so happens to be the here and now, and good lord, is there ever a lot to say about present-day America, not all of it good or even particularly flattering nowadays. The racist and bigoted brigade of Red Hats among us will make plenty of hay over the number of minority characters that feature prominently throughout, and they will no doubt find plenty of other things to be ticked off about here, too, including copious amounts of shade thrown at their orange, small-handed Dear Leader. To that I can only say, good, fuck ‘em. I loved how openly and flagrantly political this book was, from its first pages right on through to its last.
While The Living Dead is much too long, and occasionally suffers for it, oftentimes feeling like an absolute slog to get through, much of its final act is an absolutely potent gut punch. There were moments that made me ache and left me feeling miserable, and I expect a number of other readers to be turned off by the darkly pessimistic detours Kraus takes these characters through. It is, however, a wholly fitting, and purely Romero-esque, finish that echoes the despair of the 1950 film that started us down this entire path. As a posthumous work, I can’t help but feel it’s ultimately a fitting and worthy eulogy to Romero’s films and reflections on society. I have little doubt that if Romero, who died in July 2017, had lived through these last few years of the Trump presidency, his finale to The Living Dead would echo Kraus’s finish in complete synchronicity. The end point, though, remains the same and its final message is certainly an appropriate one in these days of bitter political divides and tribal in-fighting. We all — each of us — need to do better, and be better. Otherwise, for now at least, the dead win.
“The corpse’s skull broke into irregular pieces scattered across John Doe’s back and legs. Pink-gray matter, once the brain of someone who’d mattered, splattered across tile. The dull light that had animated John Doe’s white eyes dimmed. The body sagged to the floor, limp as a steak, except for the head, which was still noosed in computer cables. Bloody drool, the last thing John Doe would ever offer, skimmed down a power cord.”
When George A. Romero died in 2017, not only did he leave behind a legendary collection of movies and a massively loyal fan base, but there was also an epic zombie novel that was left unfinished. This novel, which reboots the zombie crisis, was an original story that the iconic horror master had been working on for many years. Romero had laid the groundwork, but it was Daniel Kraus who completed the doorstopper after another two years. Brought in by Romero’s wife Suzanne and his manager Chris Roe, Kraus had quite the project ahead of him. Not only was half of the book incomplete, but there was this constant flow of new material that kept popping up. I believe this book is better for it, as it felt like a true collaboration. Even from beyond the grave, Romero was making his voice heard.
Set in modern times, The Living Dead expands fifteen years into the future, whereas the films never went further than five years.
Written in such a way that it feels like these events are unfolding in real time, The Living Dead is absolutely huge in scope in almost every way with it’s multi-perspective storytelling. Divided in three acts, the short and snappy chapters pummel the stories desperately into your face. The first act is by far the largest, introducing the reader to an assortment of people during the first few weeks of the dead rising, including patient zero; Act two is the shortest section, as it is an overview of the 11 years that followed, covered in the Dead films; the final act takes place 15 years after the outbreak almost wiped out all of humanity, as the survivors are attempting to recreate civilization among a growing zombie population.
While the gnarly and gooey and sensational action scenes are wildly entertaining, the characters are the beating heart of what makes this a genre masterpiece. Among the long list of diverse characters that appear, those that stood out for me include: Jenny, Greer, Muse, Luis, Charlie, Hoffmann and Snoop. I dug the few passages that were told from the perspective of the ghouls, as well.
The Living Dead was exactly what I needed right now. After all, what better time is there to devour a story about the world coming to an end than during a real, ongoing pandemic?
“A new world could not look like the old world.”
Over 50 years after George A. Romero made Night of the Living Dead, the zombie genre has been done to death ::WHOMP, WHOMP:: thanks to entertainment like The Walking Dead. However, this reboot feels incredibly relevant to the world today if a zombie outbreak were to happen. I mean.. let’s not joke about that, because look what 2020 has already brought us.
Rage, fear, hopelessness, humanity, MOTHER FUCKING ZOMBIES!! The Living Dead reverberates with tension-filled energy. Much like Romero’s movies, this plays to many different audiences. Kraus melded his writing style with Romero’s trademark, which didn’t appear to be that difficult of a challenge, since he’s probably *the* biggest Romero fan alive. There’s a certain synchronicity between the two, that much is clear. In saying that, Kraus’ thoughtful afterward is essential reading. Trust me!
“.. keep fighting, keep surviving until the end.”
While carrying on Romero’s tradition of being so much more than just a zombie story, The Living Dead once again serves as powerful commentary on society and how time after time, the most horrifying of monsters prove to be humans themselves.
Although this novel could be thought of as yet another heartbreak for Romero because he wasn’t able to complete it himself, I think he would be mighty fucking proud of how it turned out. This is truly a celebration of his legacy, a final farewell to the Dead franchise.
(Massive thanks to Tor Books for sending me a copy!)
**The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication**
When I got The Living Dead by George A. Romero/Daniel Kraus in the mail I couldn’t stop myself from diving right in and I’m glad i did! Overall 5/5 stars for this zombie apocalypse horror fiction novel. I am incredibly picky when it comes to my zombie books, they are my one TRUE fear and have been led to disappointment with almost everyone I’ve read so far... but this book gripped me and kept me hooked for the entire almost 700 pages. Told almost like your reading archives in the future this book follows the story and path of a long list of characters through life death and rebirth for some.. tangling the lives and causing you to stop and think, who and what is really going on? The ending is bitter and in my eyes, fitting. Raw and honest. This book is the closest to my thoughts of human nature. If you enjoy horror I definitely recommend snatching up a copy of THE LIVING DEAD! Thank you for the early review copy!!!
The world had fucked hard with everyone, her more than most, but goddamn, she'd miss it anyway.
My love affair with horror movies is nearly as old as me, and that, of course, includes zombie movies. One of the first ones I saw, largely because of it's wide availability, was Night of the Living Dead. It's one of those movies that has so thoroughly permeated modern culture, it's nearly impossible to not have seen at least a few seconds of it. And it's a classic for a reason - it's damn good.
Thankfully Romero's talents translate well to the page, along with co-author Daniel Kraus. Together they created an intense and introspective novel that's about humanity, the destruction and creation we're capable of. The Living Dead is a book about hunger, about human and inhuman desire and want. It's far from a subtle book, but Romero has always been bluntly political. In fact, you can argue that the entire existence of zombies is inherently political.
It feels like a pessimistic story that deeply, secretly wants to be optimistic. There's some excellent and graphic gore, wonderfully developed characters, and several delightfully scary moments. The scale is epic, spanning years and thousands of miles. At over 600 pages, it's a definite doorstop of a book. I started getting slight reader fatigue right around page 550. But I'm still overall very pleased with how the story kept its pace balanced and story interesting despite the massive page count.
Overall if you like your zombie stories gory as fuck with a heavy dose of humanity, and / or are a fan of Romero's zombie films, The Living Dead will be right up your alley. I had a great time reading it.
Thanks to Goodreads and Nightfire for the largest paperback I've ever seen! I could conceivably fend off a zombie with this.
As soon as I hear the word zombies, I’m pretty much all in. Add in George Romero’s name and I am HERE FOR IT. Do keep in mind when reading this though that, Daniel Kraus finished this book, not Romero. Kraus estimates that about 1/3 of the book was written by Romero, not including notes and other material where Romero plotted out where the book was going. That being said, when I was reading, I didn’t feel like I was reading something that was started by one author and finished by another. Both authors voices are weaved throughout and I really think it was spectacularly done. Now onto the book itself! Act 1 was a bit slow for me, it was a big information dump that was laying out the story to come and it got a bit long at times and that was my only issue with this book, it could have been a lot shorter and snappier! Once we got to Act 2 and 3 though, I was enjoying the HELL out of it. I loved seeing all the characters come together and the connections between all of them popping up. Characters and plot aside though, the zombies truly are the best part of the book. Romero and Kraus created something really unique with the zombies in this book and I don’t want to say too much and spoil it but what they did is just phenomenal! And I couldn’t have read this at a better time, with what’s going on in the world right now with the pandemic and the governments response, the parallels between the book and real life are quite eerie!
It goes without saying just how important Romero's creative vision on zombies created such a long lasting impact on the genre. So when I spotted this title in my local bookstore I instantly had to get it.
The most interesting aspect of how this novel came to be is explained at the back of the book. It turns out that Romero had only written a couple of chapters before his death back in 2017 and Daniel Kraus effectively took over the batten - stitching together various plot ideas to tell a whole epic story..
I was instantly hooked with the opening outbreak despite the modern day setting (guess I was expecting the time period of the movies) but from what I can assume was Romero's original work I thought I was going to be in for a treat.
There's no getting away from the hefty page length and it felt like Kraus had included every single idea rather than streamline it to be a more compelling story. There's just way to much thrown in with too many characters that it was just starting to feel like a slog.
The Living Dead is a book I expected a lot from. From a George Romero manuscript, Daniel Kraus was finally going to let us witness how it all happened.
My first disappointment came right at the beginning. It’s set in contemporary times, and not in the sixties. So, if we’re about to witness the start of a zombie apocalypse, it’s not the start of George Romero epic series of movies. It’s a reinterpretation.
However, the base principle is the same : The dead won’t stay dead. And that’s a problem. This first part of the book is very interesting. Indeed, we do get to witness what happened.
Aside of that, we get zombies we’re used to, good and bad humans we’re used to, as well, and survivors surviving (or not) perils we’ve already seen or read. Your basic zombie fare. Some humans being more despicable than their dead relatives.
The narrative reminded me of Max Brooks’ World War Z, as if we were collecting pieces of information from the future. So, I was also expecting to see the events unfolding worldwide, but the story stubbornly remained relatively local. We were also promised horror, and horrific it is. I have no problem with that, and Daniel Kraus delivers.
The characters are well fleshed out, and you get invested in them (big mistake, as we all know). So, in the end, this is good zombie story, but I was expecting more in 700 pages, and not more of the same.
Thanks to Random House UK, Transworld Publishers and Netgalley for the ARC provided in exchange for this unbiased review.
This book is as great as it is long. I was excited to read anything by George A. Romero. Still I was worried that it wouldn’t live up to my expectations. Especially since I didn’t know anything about the co-author Daniel Kraus.
It definitely looked up to my expectations and I did not expect the tie in with George’s other work as much as it did, despite it being very much it’s own book. Books not perfect but it’s damn close to it. If you’re a fan up classic whore this is definitely worth a read and worth the time it takes. It’s sad that George has passed away and will not be involved in any movie that might come from this book.