It’s literally causing me mental anguish to write this review about Eden: Crusade by Tony Monchinski because I’ve been fan of his work until now. I loved the original Eden, and I enjoyed reading his short story, “Run Through The Jungle” (from the Eye Witness: Zombie Anthology), and I would have told you that he was a zombie author you should keep your eye on…and then I read Crusade, and I don’t know what the hell to think. I am under the impression that criticism of his first novel is partially to blame for the changes in his writing style in the sequel – unless it had something to do with the whole Tommy Arlin thing.
In Eden, Tony Monchinski tells us in the preface that this story was actually authored by a guy named Tommy Arlin, who is living a nomadic lifestyle all over the world. He was turned down several times until Permuted Press picked up the novel. The preface itself was an interesting tale about Tommy, Tony, and their love of zombies. Basically, Tony got Eden published as a favor to Tommy. At the back of Crusade, however, Tony tells readers that he had a falling out with Arlin, before Tony wrote Crusade.
Eden’s review was very hard to put into words…the first few chapters brutalized my mind (my polite way of saying “mind-fucked”), but in a way that a true zombiephile would appreciate. The characters were complex and deep, especially Buddy. If you haven’t read the first book, I won’t spoil it for you, but Buddy did some seriously depraved shit (really, really fucked up & yet he got a second chance at redeeming himself) before the zombie apocalypse, but if you weren’t paying close attention to the tiny detail that describes his crimes against humanity, you would think that Buddy was an upstanding guy in the rest of the novel.
Buddy meets Harris, the true main character of Eden, and the shit they deal with inside their “safe” haven just proves that if you think zombies are people’s biggest problem, you are severely underestimating other asshole survivors. Leave it to an apocalyptic crisis to show you how crappy some people can really be. It may seem like some of the characters rise above the occasion, but even those ones question “playing by the rules.” Harris illustrates this perfectly; he does his best to help those around him, just to find out someone has set him up to die at the hands – no, teeth of those zombies. I thought Eden was a perfect stand-alone, but I also said I wouldn’t refuse a sequel.
But, when Crusade was released, I was extremely reluctant to bother with it. All of my literary friends LOVED Crusade, but I’d read plenty of reviews from readers who wished they’d never laid eyes on the sequel. You see, in Crusade, the characters from the first book, particularly Buddy – undergo massive personality changes. Maybe readers didn’t like that, or maybe they didn’t like the changes in the writing style. I almost couldn’t get through the first chapter. It had lines like, “the purple-dappled clouds masked the universe and its secrets,” and I thought what the hell is this poetic crap doing in a zombie novel?!
Once the wordiness wore off, and I read past the bridge battle at the beginning, the story was really damn interesting. Survivors from Eden are trying to find a new safe haven, and literally have to walk through a zombie hell to get there, while readers are introduced to several other groups of survivors. Unlike Eden, which did not move in a chronological order, Crusade manages to flow in one direction, but it jumps back and forth between the various groups of survivors, leaving huge gaps in the timeline. That doesn’t usually bother me, but there are a shitload of characters to keep track of in this sequel. It does get better once all the survivors end up in the same location.
Where Eden could have been described as a crime-thriller zombie novel, Crusade could be called…I dunno, a cluster-fuck covered in blood and guts – and it’s not the zombies causing the mess this time!! I think that’s what really made me sick: horrific shit happens to everyone (even kids aren’t spared), and it’s at the hands of very mentally-screwed up survivors. Violence for the sake of violence. I can’t even guess what Monchinski has planned for the last book in this trilogy, but I will read it when it’s released, and hopefully it will be better than Crusade.