The Dead Tide series by Stephen A. North is kind of like a zombie soap opera: lots of characters, a rotating POV, and plenty of dramatic scenes with the undead. Usually I struggle with a cast this size, and I have to write down notes just to remember the individual survivors and their backgrounds, but somehow North managed to create several unforgettable personalities within the multiple storylines. Even the drastic change in settings with each POV switch made the books more exciting, creating the sense of total chaos surrounding the survivors through spectacular action scenes. The best part is the unpredictable nature of the series; I never knew who was going to live or die, and I never knew what particular obstacles each character would face.
In the first book, the focus seemed to be more on the police officers forced to choose between helping the citizens of their city and assisting the politicians in their attempt to escape via a luxury ship, although other storylines included both civilians and soldiers, and the controversial orders given to the military to ensure that the outbreak is contained. In the second book, it becomes obvious that the worst is yet to come when the characters meet monsters worse than the zombies.
The series continues to divulge more about the background of the surviving characters, revealing their own individual experiences within the same outbreak area. The human strengths and weaknesses are more than plausible, with North giving extra attention to the details this time around. Many people behave egotistically, but it’s those moments when someone chooses to do the right thing, even when it’s the hardest thing to do, that really creates a strong bond between the survivors and the reader.
Luckily for me, I was able to read the first two books back to back, but I will probably have to reread both when the third book becomes available. In the meantime, I had a sit down with the author, Stephen A. North:
Given those two choices only, I would have to say that I’m a horror author who writes zombie stories. I’ve also written thrillers, sci-fi, fantasy and plan to write in several other genres.
Q. Did anything in particular inspire you to write the Dead Tide series?
I was inspired to write a zombie story because I found out that Permuted Press was looking for that type of story, and I’d always wondered whether I could write one. The original Dawn of the Dead was my first experience with zombies, and just wondering how people would survive and what they’d do to survive provided me with all the remaining inspiration I needed.
Q. There has been some criticism about the number of characters that you have in the story. What do you have to say in defense of your decision to write with a large cast?
Number one, I’d have to say that all of those people were in my head with a story waiting to be told. They appeared as I finished the chapter of the previous character. I wasn’t sure who would meet, who would survive or who would die. These characters are living their lives, and I’m just the chronicler. Is that a valid defense? I did want to portray a diverse group of people. My everyday job is helping people from all walks of life. I gave them a voice, or rather, I set them free in the books. My last justification is that a lot of people die.
Q. What do you think makes the zombie sub-genre so entertaining? What is it about the genre makes you cringe?
I think it is entertaining because the fetters of civilization are cast off, and we get to see how different people behave when survival is at stake. The most important things become having a safe place to sleep, having food and water, and if you are lucky, someone to share that burden of survival with that you can trust. Basic necessities become the focus, not the price of gas, or bills, or politics. Of course, the moment we do acquire the basics (or even before), people will still be dividing into groups, some of us still hating or discriminating. Not sure how to answer what makes me cringe. Maybe authors more focused on weapon and ammo statistics than a real story? For example: “The .45 caliber 160 grain cartridge penetrated the woman’s skull at eight hundred feet per second, dropping her once again lifeless body to the linoleum and scattering bits of her brain and skull across Larry’s chest.” Say, maybe that wasn’t so bad… :)
Q. Do you think you will continue writing zombie stories, or do you plan on taking a break from the genre after you complete the Dead Tide series?
I will most definitely continue writing zombie stories. The third book in the Dead Tide series is with the publisher now, and there will be at least a fourth book. I am working on two sci-fi titles next, but both are post-apocalyptic at least! I am still getting ideas and inspiration for the next Dead Tide book, though. I’m excited about the direction it will take in the next installment.
Q. If there was a zombie outbreak in the near future, how do you think you’d fare? Do you think authors who write zombie stories have an edge over the people who read their work?
I do think people who have an interest in such things would fare better than the average person just because they have at least considered what they’d do if such a thing happened. In that case, the writer and the reader have an even chance. There are so many factors to consider. Where I live lessens my chances. I’m in the middle of a metropolis. We could have another story just thinking about where everyone in my family is when such an event occurred, though!
Thank you for your reviews of my books, and for asking me such entertaining questions! Had fun answering!