Omega Days by John L. Campbell
(Description nicked from B&N.com.)
“San Francisco, California. Father Xavier Church has spent his life ministering to unfortunate souls, but he has never witnessed horror like this. After he forsakes his vows in the most heartrending of ways, he watches helplessly as a zombie nun takes a bite out of a fellow priest’s face.
University of California, Berkeley. Skye Dennison is moving into her college dorm for the first time, simultaneously excited to be leaving the nest and terrified to be on her own. When her mother and father are eaten alive in front of her, she realizes the terror has just begun.
Alameda, California. Angie West made millions off her family’s reality gun show on the History Channel. But after she is cornered by the swarming undead, her knowledge of heavy artillery is called into play like never before.
Within weeks, the world is overrun by the walking dead. Only the quick and the smart, the strong and the determined, will survive—for now.”
What popped into my mind after finishing this book is a quote that I’ve heard attributed to various people: “People who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they like.” Or words to that effect, anyway. I would categorize this as the quintessential zombie novel, because all of the elements that you’d expect are here: young person turned badass, gun nut with her enclave, a man having crisis of faith, parents and children eating each other’s faces, cats and dogs sleeping together… okay, wait, not that last one, but you get the idea.
Basically, if you can think of a trope or common image associated with zombies, you’ll find it in here. Any gruesome vignette that might cause a reaction can likely be found in these pages. Bouncing baby undead?… got it. Plucky puppy’s last action is to jump into its strangely pale owner’s arms?… check. One sibling dies in another’s arms?… included. I could keep going, but you get the picture. That’s why I said that if you like zombie novels, you’ll like this one. It’s everything the zombie genre contains packed into one volume.
However, don’t expect to find much plot here. This is the kind of book that you read purely for fun and vicarious pleasure. No subtle metaphor for humanity’s downfall here, just hungry dead folks and the living people who run screaming from them. And you know, there’s nothing wrong with that. Not every book needs to change your life and elevate your consciousness; sometimes, you just want a little mental junk food. So, I had fun reading this book even as I recognized that it wasn’t really going anywhere. The characters just ran around and ended up in the same place at the end of the book.
I did find a few instances where the author seems to have violated his own “rules” about zombie behavior. For example, zombie move slowly in shuffling hordes… unless it’s more dramatic for them to run. In another example, zombies lose interest quickly in what they can no longer see… unless it’s more dramatic for a lone man (and his dog) to be trapped for days atop a massive storage container, surrounded by thousands of the living dead. Also, zombies are described as having low motor control… unless it’s dramatic for them to climb several flights of stairs and burst suddenly upon hapless military men. It’s not a big deal if you can just take this book as it is—a fun and fast-moving zombie novel—but it did cause me a few raised eyebrows.
So what if this book doesn’t paint exquisite pictures of humanity’s failings through the medium of zombies as a metaphor for our moral decay? It’s a neat little chomp-fest with tons of gunfire and shambling hordes. Omega Days is a great addition to the zombie genre, and would probably be a good intro to the genre for new readers.