Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Review: Dying to Live: Life Sentence

Kim Paffenroth, 2008, Permuted Press

Twelve years on from the events of Dying to Live (review here), The Community has expanded and flourished; there are new rituals and new roles, as well as new sacrifices to be made. Zoey – an infant when the zombies first rose – is now coming of age, and must find her own place in this strange new world, a process which will include coming to terms with the world ‘before’, which the older folks of The Community still cling to in many ways. And then there are the challenges of dealing with human marauders, and the ever-present threat from the zombie ‘population’.

A population that appears to be becoming smarter...

I greatly enjoyed Life Sentence, as I enjoyed its predecessor. The story clips along at a fair pace, despite being more focussed upon the philosophical and cultural implications of the zombie apocalypse than seasoned gorehounds may appreciate, and the author gives his viewpoint characters a pleasant and engaging ‘voice’ through which the tale is related.

Having said that, there were two general aspects of the novel that weakened the story somewhat. Firstly, there’s a tendency by the author to over-explain certain themes and ideas, particularly at the beginning of the novel, which gives the work a ‘padded-out’ and ‘preachy’ feel occasionally. Secondly, (and I include a ‘spoiler alert’ here) the chapters related from the point-of-view of a ‘smart’ zombie character were a little disappointing, as – despite constant reiteration that this character was unable to remember so many aspects of his former life – he simply seemed too ‘together’, and came across more like a regular human mute. Still, taking the concept of Smart Zombies to the next level and proposing (relatively) Compassionate Smart Zombies is a nice move, and one that Paffenroth should be commended for. It’s certainly an idea that begs for further investigation and expansion.

So: all in all, a worthy read. If you’ve enjoyed Paffenroth’s previous work, you’ll certainly enjoy Life Sentence. If you’ve not read Paffenroth before, I’d recommend starting with Dying to Live, as it introduces concepts, situations and characters central to the sequel. Highly recommended to fans of zomfic.

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