I received Dead: The Ugly Beginning as a gift, and I gave up a night’s sleep to finish it in one sitting.

The story begins with a guy named Steve and his point of view, looking back on the beginning of a zombie outbreak. He receives a phone call from a friend, instructing him to turn on the local news. Steve chooses to ignore the signs of a zombie outbreak, even though he and his friends have discussed what they would do in that exact situation. However, Steve admits straight away that most of his speculation was very mistaken. Unfortunately, Steve lives in an apartment that has a door and living room window facing an outside hallway, which is how the first zombie gets in. Based on what he sees in the parking lot as he escapes, both people and animals can be infected (the zombies in this book go after all living things). Although the cause is unknown (and Steve doesn’t think anyone will ever really know), the virus is definitely passed on by bites. Steve manages to save Thalia, a little girl who also lived in the apartment building, and the two are soon joined by a teenager named Teresa.

The point of view begins to switch between various individuals and groups, but the shifts are easy to follow. Some of the more gripping characters include:

  • Travis, former convict, who watched what remained of his work crew devour another co-worker at a warehouse. He turns out to be one of the sickos who actually takes advantage of the anarchy.
  • Jaun Hoya, who’d been living in his car for eight months before the outbreak reached him. He meets up with Travis, and thankfully has higher moral standards.
  • Darrin, Mike, Kevin, and Cary – some friends chatting online who create a survival plan that involves stealing a truck from U-Haul and loading it up at Wal-Mart superstore. These guys could have a book of their own…they had to deal with more obstacles than any other characters.
  • Dillon & Ian, who were trapped in their prison cells. Two of the few who had the sense to stand at the BACK of their cells.

There were three qualities that I loved about Dead: The Ugly Beginning:

  • The author obviously pays attention to what is said in zombie fan forums, message boards, etc.
  • Brown presents all of his characters in the same attention-grabbing way, even if they die soon after their introduction…you don’t know it’s coming until it happens.
  • The characters acknowledge the existing zombie culture…these people have watched the same zombie movies, read the same zombie novels, and had the same discussions as zombie fanatics in real-life.

The book ends with a huge cliffhanger, but TW Brown has plans for a series comprising as many as ten volumes. I don’t recommend this book for the squeamish, but I think this is an excellent book for any zombiephiles who have read pretty much everything else zombie-related. I haven’t read anything this realistic since the The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks, and I can’t wait to read more about these characters!

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