I just finished reading The Undead Situation by Eloise J Knapp, and I’m starting to think that the latest trend in zombie novels is to make the protagonist a real asshole. I don’t mean someone unlikeable, I mean someone who keeps you hooked into the story because you want to watch them die a slow and agonizing death. Pretty much sums up how I feel about Knapp’s central character.
Knapp’s novel is a permutation of various elements of the human psyche: irrationality, detachment, and a degree of apathy I haven’t read since David Moody’s Hater. I don’t have a problem with self-preservation in an apocalypse (makes perfect sense actually), but the character of Cyrus V. Sinclair was self-centered to the point of being sadistic — I mean, if you don’t want someone in your apartment, don’t let them in and then dangle them from your balcony — and I really wanted him to die; he simply didn’t suffer enough for me. I liked his pet ferret, Pickles, more than Cyrus.
The other few characters (Frank – mentor of Cyrus, Gabe – teen survivor & Blaze – former military) had a peculiar nature to them…some embodying the typical survivor clichés, others simply inscrutable which amplified the lack of emotion that pervades throughout the book…none of them too developed. Frank is the die-hard survivalist who knew shit was going to hit the fan one way or another. Gabe is some dumbass teenager trying to reinvent herself into a bad-ass, but always wanting to save everyone, even the guys who raped her. Blaze is former military, with a chip on her shoulder that says, “I eat ball sacks for breakfast. Put yours on the plate now.” Cyrus is a piece of work that you will just have to read for yourself.
99% of the story was told from the POV of Cyrus, so I was surprised by the sudden and brief flip to Blaze’s POV just to show readers something she did without the knowledge of the other three characters. It did nothing to give any real depth to her personality…it just reinforced that she does not give a damn what anyone thinks. It’s too bad there wasn’t a flashback of how Blaze ended up in the prison where she meets Cyrus. There were a few minor characters that were only in the story for a few sentences, but they stood out so much, I am hoping they might surface in the sequel.
While The Undead Situation did have some gruesome scenes, Knapp doesn’t dwell on the visceral details much. What she focuses on instead is psychological horror, with frustrating people and exasperating circumstances to rub salt in the undead wound.
Overall, the deal breaker for readers will probably depend on whether they’re accepting of Cyrus or not, but this is a story that revolves more around the breakdown of society rather than characterization, so it’s a pretty good zombie novel as far as a post-apocalyptic tale goes. I hope there is more character development in the next installment, but I liked the storyline just as it was: a small group of people getting the hell out of Seattle.