I just read a very gory zombie book. You are probably thinking, “Well duh, kind of comes with the territory, right?” Actually, so far in my experience reading zombie books it doesn’t. I mentioned in an earlier post that I don’t watch zombies movies, well I did watch Shaun of the Dead, since it was spoof, but I don’t watch zombie films or any horror movies actually as I don’t like gore. My experience reading books such as was lulling me into a pattern of not expecting anything too graphic from zombie books. I mean Rot & Ruin was for me more like a modern day Shane, mixed with Shogun and the Karate Kid. So I was becoming complacent that most zombie novels leveraged the horror of the zombies coming after you and not so much on the results if they caught you.
Well Shadows, the second book in the Ashes trilogy by Ilsa J. Blick, certainly proved me wrong. This book is raw, and I mean that in both a literal and figurative sense. Turns out the terror of zombies following you is minor compared to the terror you would feel if one of the zombies, or ‘Changed’ as they are referred to here, catches you. In most zombie books the creatures crave blood, but not because they are vicious or angry, traditionally zombies don’t have emotions, their minds and memories are vacant voids and they attack because of need or some instinct. The Changed in Shadows are more frightening because of the fact they have emotions and are conscious. They cannot speak, but they show through their expressions and actions that they take sadistic pleasure and are conscious of the horrific acts they are committing. In many instances they make a point of making sure other captives watch as they eat the unlucky ones. I couldn’t help but wonder about what type of person could write such gruesomely imaginative things and reading the author’s bio helped explain it. After all, it’s an unusual person who has been both a child psychiatrist and a major in the military.
Due to her tumor, Alex who has been captured by the Changed, is often able to literally sniff out their intentions in advance, but what’s worse is when her mind almost seems to meld with some of theirs, making her wonder how much the monster in her head has in common with the actual monsters.
The other characters in the story are dealing with another type of monster. Chris realizes the terrible truth about the town of Rule, Peter encounters a person who is a bigger monster than any of the zombies, and Tom still struggles to get the monster of his own past actions out of his head. I liked that this second book in the series was broken into separate chapters describing events from each character’s experience rather than one continuous narrative. After all, though they are all in a situation where their lives and the world as they have known it have been inexorably altered, each has their own way of reacting and struggling with the choices they now face.