Friday, April 22, 2011

Review: Allison Hewitt is Trapped

Madeleine Roux, 2011, Hachette

'They are coming and I don't think we will ever get out. If you're reading this, please call the police. Call them now. I can't promise we will be here tomorrow or the day after, or the day after that, but tell them to rescue us before it's too late. Tell them to try. If they ask for a name, tell them my name is Allison Hewitt...'

So writes Allison in her blog, as the walking dead close in. There's a great deal to like about Allison Hewitt is Trapped; the plot, despite comprising many standard zompocalyptic themes and situations, rises above the 'same old' due to its unflagging energy and momentum. The central protagonists, and particularly the character of Allison herself, are depicted with discomforting realism; fallible, damaged, and as capable of truly dreadful acts as of selfless ones. Overall, this is a great read, and a worthy addition to any zomfan's personal library.

That said, however, I do have one fairly major criticism of the novel:

'Diarised' zompocalyptic novels are quite common within the genre, and for good reason: the individual entries, describing snippets of recent action on an ongoing basis, give such tales an immediacy that puts the reader right in the thick of that action. Furthermore, with the 'author' in such cases relating the tale on (generally) a daily basis, rather than writing up the entire manuscript upon completion of the adventure (and therefore obviously having survived that adventure) there's never any guarantee that the author will actually survive from one entry to the next, which creates and maintains a pleasing level of tension. This certainly should have been the case with Allison Hewitt is Trapped. Unfortunately, the novel is prefaced by a letter - addressed to a publisher collecting biographical essays by famous public figures from the time of the zombie uprising - that essentially acts as a massive spoiler on that count. To add insult to injury, the letter (along with the 'answering' letter at the conclusion of the book) is of the 'as you know, Bob...' variety, explaining at length certain information that the recipient of the letter would apparently already know. It's a clumsy, unnecessary piece of writing that undermines the whole novel to some degree, and may actually discourage particularly impatient readers from reading on - a tragedy, since the letter is in no way representative of the quality of the remaining novel.

My advice regarding Allison Hewitt is Trapped, then, is this: Read it, absolutely. It's a great book. But bypass the preface and endpiece entirely, or at least leave them until after you've finished the novel itself.

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