Mad Swine: Dead Winter is the second in a zombie series by Steven Pajak, although the status of Pajak’s “crazies” as zombies is still in dispute in some circles. Dead Winter managed to survive my make-or-break rule about book series (if the follow-up doesn’t impress me, I give up), even though it is significantly less brutal than the first story. I was entertained to a degree by the sequel, and I am still a fan of the author, but Dead Winter let me down in a few ways.
When Mad Swine: The Beginning ended, the residents of Randall Oaks were on the verge of a massive war with another neighboring community over supplies. This follow-up begins a few months later, and doesn’t go into much detail about the battle for survival between communities. After being left with such a dramatic cliff-hanger in the first story, I couldn’t believe Pajak placed so little importance on the conflict between the two groups…especially considering the original emphasis placed on people pulling together to survive an apocalyptic outbreak – people who didn’t necessarily have close relationships (if any at all) to begin with. By basically skipping over a significant period of time, Pajak missed the opportunity to further develop his key characters, and make the storyline more personal for the readers.
In this sequel, the Randall Oaks survivors are struggling (with their situation, as well as one another) to make a long-term survival plan. It takes most of the book for them to come to a decision, only for them to hit another major stumbling block once they finally take action…and then the book ends. I found this very frustrating…but it is also due in part to my restlessness waiting for the third book in the series.
I think what disappointed me most of all was the limited action. Don’t get me wrong – Pajak creates some superb scenes between the survivors, which will have you gnawing on your own hand…but the sequel didn’t seem quite as intense as the first book. It’s like Pajak gave readers something delicious to sink their teeth into, but nothing to wash it down with afterwards…leaving readers thirsting for more.
I am hoping that Pajak will return to the formula that he used when writing his first book in this series, but I am looking forward to learning the fates of all the survivors of Randall Oaks.