Dead of Night is Maberry’s twisted homage to the zombie genre, sacrificing his characters to appease the zombiephiles. When Jonathan Maberry wrote this novel, he created so much more than your usual characters trying to get from Point A to Point B without being killed; reading Maberry’s story was like being trapped in a labyrinth with the undead — you’re not sure where it’s going, how the characters will get out (if they get out), and you don’t know what’s around the next turn. The only thing that you can be sure of is that lucky ones are the folks with a bullet in the brain.
Let me just say now: the zombies in Dead of Night made me want to vomit. They not only bite to spread infection, but they spew a black liquid filled with parasites. In addition to infected blood, the characters have to worry about zombie larvae actively seeking a way in.
At first, Dead of Night seems more of a mystery thriller than zombie horror; the executed body of convicted serial killer, Homer Gibbon, goes missing while being prepared for a private burial. Dez Fox, a local police officer is called to the crime scene, along with her partner, JT. They find two murder victims, but can’t figure out what took place. Billy Trout is a reporter investigating the personal background of Homer Gibbon, and finds out about a government cover-up concerning his execution. Aside from an attack on Dez, and the mayhem that her fellow officers walk into, most of the action doesn’t take place until nearly halfway through the book. It’s a long set-up, but it’s totally worth staying the course.
The book is divided into four parts, with each part beginning with a different section of The Hollow Men by TS Eliot. The very first chapter is told from the mind of an infected victim, expressing his personal hell as he is trapped in a body that he is no longer in control of, and he is forced to watch the atrocities that his vessel is committing. This is not a supernatural occurrence; readers are given a scientific explanation when Trout interviews Dr. Volker, who carried out the process of Gibbon’s execution.
The POV switches between characters, giving readers an intimate view of their relationships to one another, as well as their personalities. For instance, Trout and Dez are ex-lovers, notorious in town for their volatile break-ups. By the time the infected are overwhelming Stebbins, PA, you will feel like you have lived there yourself. You might also notice how many of the characters are named after people well-known in zombiephile circles, such as Tony Faville and Byron Rempel.
One of the reasons that the infection is allowed to spread so easily is the high level of denial, even among those who have witnessed the zombies firsthand. After Trout interviews Volker, he still believes the military will come and save the survivors. Dez can’t convince her fellow officers that the dead are attacking the living because she doesn’t want to believe it herself. Deliberate miscommunication is another reason that the outbreak grows out of control. The state police think the local police have gone crazy shooting innocent people and the National Guard are led to believe that EVERYONE in the town is infected, so no one is allowed to leave the quarantine zone. Of course, there is also the source of the infection, continuing on a mission to spread the disease beyond the boundaries of Stebbins.
Trout has a colleague, Goat, who does manage to find a way to upload video footage to all the social networks, in one last attempt to save the survivors of Stebbins, as they make their last stand in a school that was established as a storm shelter. Oh, and I did I mention the hurricane-like weather they are having throughout most of this timeline?
The ending left me wondering if there will be a sequel, but Dead of Night is just fine as a standalone tale of how one infected person could destroy the world if he’s given the opportunity.