Friday, October 15, 2010

Review: Eden: Crusade

Tony Monchinski, 2010, Permuted Press

As millions of flesh-hungry zombies roam the land, seeking out the last living humans, the remaining refugees from Eden continue on their search for something better. Somewhere safe. Along the way they face adversaries living and dead, befriend fellow survivors, and find reasons to keep hope alive. Yet none suspect that the greatest threat to their survival lies within their own ranks...

When I reviewed Tony Monchinski's Eden back in 2008 (review here), I proclaimed it one of the very best apocalyptic novels I'd ever read. I'm happy to report, then, that the sequel, Crusade, is every bit as good as the original. The plot of the novel is nothing remarkable in itself, following the standard zombie-apocalypse template of survivors fighting against the odds in order to find safe refuge. Where Crusade shines like a diamond, however, is in the characterisation and the atmosphere. Monchinski's characters - sympathetic or otherwise - live and breathe in a way that so few other literary characters do, forcing the reader to invest heavily in their fates (which, be warned, does not make for comfortable reading). The atmosphere throughout the novel is one of almost constant grind; our protagonists do what needs to be done, go through the motions, and occasionally punctuate the mundane search for shelter and food with short, sharp encounters with the hungry dead. There's a brilliantly-conveyed sense that this is not a story with a neat beginning, middle and end, but an ongoing, endless tale of life after the zombies, going on and on, day in, day out. Much like real life, only far less pleasant.

To my mind, with two absolutely top-notch novels under his belt, Monchinski has proven himself a bona-fide shining star of our beloved zomfic subgenre, and as such rates a place on my very short list of authors - in any genre (and I read widely) - whose work I will now always rush out to buy as soon as it hits the shelves. Crusade is a novel that any zomfic fan who truly appreciates literature absolutely must read, along with Monchinski's original novel, Eden.

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