In a world overrun by dystopian, zombie-laden futures, this book stands out.
Post-apocalyptic (because of the zombies, of course) novels are a dime a dozen. Seriously—do an on-line search for that broad category and you’ll find more than you can possibly read, for not much money. Zombies have invaded most genres as well; they’re not just confined to the horror section. Now you can have zombies in young adult novels, romance novels, parody novels, even in the self-help and poetry sections, if that’s what you like.
Unfortunately, many of these books just aren’t good. Either poor logic brings them down (yes, we’re reading about the dead eating the living, so our suspension of disbelief is already at its maximum, but some laws of nature must still apply), or just poor writing skills and storytelling, separating the wheat from the chaff can be a tedious task.
I’m very happy I gave Zombie, Inc., more than a passing look.
Doughterty’s writing style is straight-forward and right to the point, and easy to read. The novel takes place after the zombie apocalypse, but after the horrors of the living dead have been mostly contained. People survived, but their existence is curtailed by living in compounds; their lives are dictated by regulations, food shortages, and violence. They owe their safety to the company, Zombie, Inc., which built itself into the largest organization left.
At the beginning, I thought the story would be tongue-in-cheek. It starts with the introduction of a newly hired Assessor—one of the people employed by Zombie, Inc., to do field calls for clients—and follows her and her mentor through their daily routines. Each chapter is headed with information from Zombie, Inc.’s employee handbook guidelines. The novel sneaks up on you; its quick read means you’re a third into it before you realize the included company regulations are becoming more insidious, the atmosphere is much darker, and this journey is making a u-turn into something you didn’t predict.
Although it details life after the apocalypse, it focuses more on a generational gap of people who fought and lived through the early waves of zombie attacks versus the well-meaning but under-informed radical youth who want zombies to be given rights instead of killed on sight.
Then, just as you think you’ve got the plot under control, it pulls another switchback and becomes a warning about corporations becoming too big and too powerful. The company Zombie, Inc., has become greater than the government in this new world, and that is the true horror the characters have to face.
The characters were easy to relate to, and there was enough substance to the story that it felt polished. I also liked the fact that not everything was spelled out or expounded by the author; there were things just taken for granted that the reader was never given explanations for. Instead of making it feel half-done or rushed, it gave the novel weight, like Dougherty had proper backstory and justifications for it all, but it wasn’t vital so it wasn’t added just to make word count.
The zombies themselves are the standard rotting, animated corpses motivated by human flesh. How they came into being or their physiology isn’t the focus of this work, so if you’re looking for something more concentrated on that, this isn’t the zombie novel for you. If you’re willing to be taken by surprise by a zombie novel, if you’d like to read something with a different twist, this may just fill that need.