Kings of the Dead (Revised and Expanded) by Tony Faville (Permuted Press, April 2011, 270 pages, $14.95) opens with Zombie Hunter Cole explaining how the zombie apocalypse began nearly a year prior, with the swine flu mutating into a zombie virus. This character actually acknowledges the existing zombie genre, and describes how that affected the survival preparations of his group. The story is divided up by dates, so it’s easy to follow the timeline; Cole is essentially writing journal entries.
I love reading zombie novels by authors who pay attention to what the zombiephiles discuss in the realm of “What If,” but when the characters are so well-prepared as Faville’s, it makes for a slightly boring apocalypse scenario. The first two dozen pages didn’t have much action, so I began to resent Cole for rambling about how awesome his survival group was, until he mentioned they came across some zombies that were running just as fast the survivors. In the beginning, he had made it a point to say that they were shamblers – great hook by the author, but I felt like it took too many pages to get there.
Over a few months time, Cole’s group has to move their location, one of their members is displaying unusual behavior even though he does not appear to be infected, and they have reason to believe the military is actively using chemical warfare in an attempt to stop the zombie hordes. What begins as a slow trickle soon gushes into some gut-wrenching gore, and suspenseful battle scenes.
Faville has created an interesting balance between the struggle for survival, and the desire for a “normal” life, with elements of deviancy such as cannibalism. The story is filled with twists and turns, and his imagery ranges from breath-taking to repulsive. None of the gore was overdone, as is the case in some novels where it’s tossed in just to shock the reader. Slow to advance, the story does evolve into a more familiar horror thriller, complete with complex character relationships, and a bloody payoff for patient readers. (And, I LOVED the reference to “The Postman.”)
Here’s what Tony Faville had to say about being a zombie author:
Q. I heard that you were a chef once upon a time. How do you go from chef to zombie author?
A. Once upon a time, I was a Chef. Then the economy went to hell in a hand basket and I started seeing restaurants close all around town. I had an opportunity to get into a decent paying job outside of the kitchen and figured I would get back into the Chef biz in a year or so. That was three years ago. Since I had more time on my hands than I did as a Chef, I decided to try my hand at writing about one of my other passions. Hence the zombie author gig came to life.
Q. Some of your characters seemed very familiar. Are they based on someone you know or events in your life?
A. I am a very firm believer that you should write what you know. There are definitely people in my life that were influential on some of the characters in the book. When you know a very strong person in real life, it can be all too easy to slip traits of that person into a character.
Q. Zombies have trampled the other supernatural creatures in the past couple of years. Why do you think horror readers are drawn to zombie novels?
A. I think many people truly are ready for a drastic change in their lives, and what is more drastic than a zombie apocalypse. I know an awful lot of people that would never do anything to bring about the apocalypse, but they would also never complain that it happened. In my humble opinion, when things are as bad as they currently are, it’s time for a reboot.
Q. The perception of a zombiephile is that he or she is weirder than most. Do you find yourself – and other zombie writers – to be stranger than the average person?
A. I personally don’t find us any weirder. Look at “Car Guys”….they sit around and talk about cars all the time. To them, heck yeah I am a weirdo. But to me, they are every bit as weird as they think I am. To each their own is what I say. At the same time, my zombies are cooler than your new wheels. ;)
Okay, yes, I do have a tattoo of Chef Anthony Bourdain as a zombie on the inside of my right forearm. That does not make me any weirder than my buddy that is a VW guy having a VW logo tattooed on his leg.
Q. What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?
A. You have to have believable characters, in a believable setting, and you have to have a hook that grabs them and does not let go. Also, if my past readers are any indication, you apparently have to have a goat.
Q. If people want to find out more about Tony Faville, where should they begin stalking you?
I would like to take a moment to thank you for the review, and the interview. Thanks!