The Walking Dead, Search and Destroy by Jay Bonansinga
Many of you will be familiar with the T.V. series of the same name, and Search and Destroy is pretty similar fare in written form. There is a series of books based upon the Robert Kirkman premise and this one falls somewhere in that line, although I’m unsure where, and I really don’t care all that much. I found this novel disappointing.
Growing up in rural Ireland, I never figured that there was much chance of a zombie apocalypse around our way. However, if you have ever observed a 78 year old Irish farmer who is drunk on poitín (Irish moonshine), the you might have a good understanding of what a zombie might really be like.
I cut my apocalyptic teeth on the movies of George A. Romero, and so was an early fan of the Walking Dead T.V. series. Yet I only watched the first series before abandoning T.V. entirely to focus on my reading. It was at this time that I fully realized something about zombie flicks that is glossed over in the genre, i.e. the fate of babies and children.
(pretty disgusting, I know, and worrying that a child has such an interest)
Romero chose not to show toddler zombies stumbling about, completely emaciated as they would be wholly ineffective predators. Imagine also babies who cannot walk. They would have to lie or crawl within the home, suffering unknowable pain. And what of the children who die as prey, devoured by the zombie hordes. We are not presented with the imagery, but the truth is that babies would be ripped apart, perhaps by the teeth of their own parents.
Once I understood all this, the entire zombie concept lost its appeal. Yet I voluntarily chose to read Search and Destroy to sate my curiosity. I wish I hadn’t. Children do figure in this storyline. I have concerns that the frequency with which suffering children appear, in both books and movies, is a step towards accidentally desensitizing the populace to such pain. If this were to happen, then people may be less emotionally affected when they see a child in distress. That is not progress.
Lilly Caul is the leader of a group of survivors in Woodbury, Georgia. These resilient individuals have teamed up with similar groups from neighbouring settlements, in an effort to reopen the railway line that runs to Atlanta. I’m not sure why they would want to do this (and its never made clear), as Atlanta is zombie central. Yet the stalwart crews labour on until disaster strikes. It becomes apparent that there are new players on the scene and they respect no rules. The children of Woodbury have been abducted.
So it is that Lilly and her select band set off in pursuit, whilst attempting to evade the predations of the living dead who are as hungry as ever and must really smell pretty fucking bad by this time. Cue drama, trauma, incident, accident and horror.
I don’t want to reveal the entire plot in case some of you might wish to read this book. What I can tell you is that Lilly Caul is a walking calamity. She is so bad she could be married to Donald Trump, and might even make him look good. She is portrayed as a warrior-queen and born leader. Yet her actions, and lack of good judgement, means that her people are lead from one cock-up to the next. If I was one of the Woodbury group, I would kick Lilly Caul in the balls and run away.
– Aftermath of an Irish wedding
Jay Bonansinga can write. What he can’t do, apparently, is think clearly. Some of the action sequences are laughable, and completely unbelievably. Yes, I hear you scream, the idea of zombies is unbelievable, it is little more than escapism prompted by an increasing disillusion with our materialist and vacuous societies.
I have read the arguments and debates regarding the viability of a zombie plague. For example, how can they digest the food that they greedily feast upon, when their bodies are dead? Additionally, even if their digestive systems are intact, then do they shit? There are Facebook groups set up for this type of interest. Humans are weird.
(is it wrong to have impure thoughts about sexy female zombies, and can they be trusted to be monogamous?)
But if we move (rather quickly) past the ridiculous idea of zombies, we can still hope to ensure that the writer’s portrayal of human behaviour, and capabilities, remains consistent with the reality. What about Resident Evil? I hear you shout. But the Walking Dead is not Resident Evil, and Lilly Caul is not Alice.
In one scene, Lily and 14 year old Tommy Dupree are on the roof of a six story building, from which they jump onto a neighbouring building. The distance between the two structures is 10 feet, which is doable. However, the drop is 20 feet. They both make it unscathed. What a load of garbage.
The room in which you now sit (if at home) is likely 8 ft high. Double that and add 4 ft and then imagine falling from that distance, let alone hitting it at speed as you leap between two tall buildings. You would twist or break an ankle or knee upon impact, and that is not what you want to risk when the living dead are milling around in the hope of eating your living ass.
It reminds me of Bear Grylls and his silly escapades in the wilderness, as he leaps from one place to another like a demented goat. A true wilderness expert would never engage in the antics of Grylls as, like the zombie apocalypse, an injury could mean death, and a horrible one at that.
Much of the regular action in this book is so poorly constructed as to be frustrating. The mechanisms used to tie the plot together are threadbare and left me wanting the Woodbury adults to get eaten and be done with it. The best thing about this book is that it has confirmed for me that I was right to ignore the impending zombie apocalypse, choosing to sit instead with a mug of tea and a good book. But not this one.
Sult scale rating: You’d be better off taking your chances with the real zombies of religious fanaticism.