Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Review: Eden

Tony Monchinski, 2008, Permuted Press

The zombie apocalypse has arrived, civilization has fallen, and in what was once Queens, New York, a small community of survivors stand their ground in a fortified compound they’ve named Eden. And, like its namesake, there are snakes within...

Okay, yes, it’s yet another zombie apocalypse novel, and yes, there are plot elements here that will be extremely familiar to anyone who has ever watched a George Romero movie. However, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that this is one of the very best apocalyptic novels I have ever read, bar none; and, as with most truly exceptional zombie novels, it’s la difference that sets Eden apart from the pack (if that isn’t too damn obvious a statement). For a start, our main protagonist, a former teacher named Harris, is introduced on page one of the novel having just been bitten by a zombie. He’s dying from the moment we meet him, and we follow his rapid deterioration throughout the remainder of the novel as he attempts to discover just who in Eden set him up (yep, someone let the zombie in deliberately).

Monchinski intersperses the brief chapters detailing Harris’ hunt for justice with ‘snapshots’ describing his experiences of the apocalypse up until the ‘present’ – moments big and small, significant or otherwise - along with occasional peeks at the experiences of other characters, not all of whom figure prominently in the plot. By the time we reach the foregone conclusion of the novel, we have invested emotionally in Harris’ fate because we know him so well. Fascinatingly, though, most of the aforementioned snapshots are delivered out-of-sequence, so that the reader builds up a very particular (and often flawed) view of any given character, which may very well be turned upon its head with the next snapshot (in one such instance, the reader alone is given information on the background of one of the ‘good guys’ of the piece which, I guarantee, will turn the stomach of even the most hardened horror fan!). This serves to keep the reader guessing, adding to the mounting tension of the main story thread.

My one gripe concerning this novel – and it seems to be a ongoing problem with Permuted Press publications – is that the standard of proofing is pretty dreadful; the published version of Eden is replete with typos and grammatical errors that could have been removed with a decent copy edit. It falls to the editors of any publishing company to weed out such errors, and a failure to do so unfairly gives the impression to potential readers that otherwise excellent authors and works are somehow substandard.

Okay, rant over.

Eden is a wonderful, engaging novel that will continue to resonate, emotionally, long after the final page is read. You can order a copy online from Amazon.com, and should do so immediately. I’ll be looking forward to Monchinski’s next offering, hopefully in the not-too-distant future.

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