100 Days In Deadland by Rachel Aukes is one of the best zombies novels that I’ve read in 2013…I would definitely put this book in my top ten picks for the year. Zombies have always been more than flesh-eating monsters, representing issues within society; Aukes has taken the zombie metaphor even further by creating a cultural link between classic literature and mainstream horror. While I was expecting something like Valley of the Dead, even though I knew this story takes place in modern times, I was surprised to find Aukes’ creation more like Down The Road, with relentless action and gritty emotion. The 34 chapters reflect the 34 cantos of Inferno, with Easter eggs placed throughout the book for literary buffs.
The main character, Cash (real name Mia), was a refreshing female lead, with thoughts and reactions that seemed so much more genuine than most characters in zombie fiction, especially when it comes to female characters. She doesn’t start out as badass, but, rather, she has to work hard on a daily basis to become physically and mentally tough enough to survive the undead outbreak in her area. Her metamorphosis doesn’t happen without some setbacks, either. I also appreciated the realistic nature of her interactions with the other characters, particularly Clutch (the truck driver who gives her refuge) and Jase (a young man who is neighbors with Clutch). There is an underlying rawness about her at all times that rises to the surface as the story progresses, which made me feel for her character, even when she wasn’t blatantly suffering.
Despite the genre being overwhelmed by an ever-growing number of zombie stories, authors like Aukes have managed to keep zombiephiles entertained by building on the foundations of quality horror & suspense, rather than throwing together a bunch of gore & violence and calling it a story. The only criticism that I have about this work is the foreword; I liked the afterword, but I think Aukes should let her work speak for itself, rather than repeat over and over what she was attempting when she wrote this exciting zombie novel. Aukes has proven beyond a doubt that there is still life in the undead genre.