The King of Clayfield by Shane Gregory is told from the POV of a guy who works at a museum, seemingly out of touch with what’s going in the world, thus getting caught off guard by an outbreak in his town of Clayfield, Kentucky. Not really having a life, the main character decides to wait for the government to come to his rescue, rather than make a run for it, as he tries to gather enough supplies to last long enough to be saved.
First of all, let me just say that I didn’t think this was a bad survival story (although I have no idea why the guy is called “King,” especially with all the pouting and whining he does – “Princess of Clayfield” would have been more fitting)…that being said, I hated the main character, and his group of survivors. I hated them so much, I’m not sure I will bother to read the sequel. I think it’s safe to say I hated all of the characters. I would have been much happier if they were all dead by the end of the book. The author did a great job making his characters realistic, but they all happened to either have personalities that I couldn’t stand, and/or they did some of the dumbest stuff that I’ve ever read in a zombie outbreak story.
For example, the main character, who was telling the story, kept going on and on about his ex-wife. Thankfully, he kept his ex-wife thoughts to himself because I’m pretty sure one of the women in his group would have smacked him upside his head eventually. As for an example of the stupidity, one of the women in the group apparently considers herself the morality police of the infected, and is constantly shooting at them, when she could be doing something more productive with her time – like getting away from the approaching hordes. It also seems to take the survivors FOREVER to figure out the dead were reanimating…in fact, some of them never seemed to fully catch on. Even if there weren’t zombies everywhere in Clayfield, I’m surprised a group like that could survive ANYTHING.
Even with all my criticisms of the story, there were a few things that I did enjoy. I thought it was an original idea to have the survivors stay put in Clayfield, instead of trying to get out of town. I thought the behavior of the infected was fairly creative as well; to begin with, the infected Living go mad with the virus, resorting to very basic, animalistic instincts, including alpha males and forced copulation. Once they actually die, the infected rise up as the undead. Last, but not least, was the “treatment” for infection: getting drunk. (No shit. You read it right. All the straight-edge people were the first to go.) However, the premise poses an interesting dilemma: how to get rid of infection and not get so wasted that you can’t fight the zombies…and what happens when you run out of alcohol?!
Some technical issues: the POV starts with present time, and then the rest of the book serves as one major flashback, only the POV never goes back to present time. Also, the ending seemed kind of abrupt, with a few loose ends – even with a sequel available, there’s no excuse for ending a story like that.
I think I would have enjoyed the story more if there was at least one character that I could root for, instead of wishing death on them all. In any case, I was entertained, just not as much as I had hoped for…but that’s just me; other zombiephiles might not mind the characters and their personality flaws.