Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Review: Day by Day Armageddon

J. L. Bourne, Permuted Press, 2007

If the title of this zombie-apocalypse tale sounds familiar, that’s probably because it's been doing the rounds for a few years now in various forms; first as an online journal, then as a print publication (which I believe has been revised at least once). Day by Day Armageddon also has a major cult following, being one of the earliest examples of the current crop of U.S. small-press zombie fiction to ‘make it big’ (comparatively).

The story is written in the form of a daily journal, penned by a survivor of the zombie outbreak who just happens to be a serving member of the U.S. military (as is the author), with knowledge of and access to weapons and various invaluable survival techniques. The narrative follows the nameless protagonist’s struggle to survive, and to find safe refuge from the undead for himself and a motley assortment of fellow survivors he collects along the way.

To be honest, I wasn’t at all convinced that I was going to enjoy this novel: apocalyptic tales in which the protagonist is a strong, capable type with a good grasp of what’s going on tend not to grab my interest so much. Give me a gibbering, ineffectual loser every time; it makes things more interesting.

However, as it turns out, I did enjoy the book. Sure, there’s nothing really new here, the plot almost wholly composed of elements that any zombie fan will be familiar with. However, it’s still a pretty good read if you don’t mind more of the same (and, given the popularity of the subgenre, I’m betting most readers who pick up this book won’t), and the military-man POV admittedly generates some interest. The author also manages to make his protagonist – who might well have come across as boringly invulnerable – sufficiently flawed and sympathetic to engage the average reader.

I did have two major issues with this publication, though. Firstly, it ends extremely abruptly, and I don’t mean in a ‘they all got eaten’ sort of way. This may have worked okay in the original blog format, where readers held no real expectations beyond the entry du jour, but unfortunately in novel form the result is extremely annoying, with no real climax to speak of, and no hint of possible future developments or sequels. Perhaps I’m expecting too much, but the lack of anything that could be called a proper conclusion left me extremely frustrated.

My second issue was with the editing of the book, or lack thereof. Although competently written, the text is rife with errors in spelling, grammar and punctuation – not to mention some extremely dodgy sentence construction – that kept making me want to whip out the red pencil and go to town. If I were feeling generous, I might suggest that the cruddy grammar lends the tale a certain realism; the journal has, after all, supposedly been written by an Average Joe, possibly with a fairly substandard grasp of the expectations of decent prose. But in the end, it was simply an annoyance that detracted from my enjoyment of the book.

This is a worthwhile addition to the private library if you really enjoy zombie fiction. Otherwise, I’d suggest Joe McKinney’s Dead City as a similarly-themed but more competently packaged substitute.

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