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RISING - 2004
By Brian Keene
Publisher: Leisure Books
often read new authors, either those publishing their first novel, or
one of their first; I like to stick to the masters, who either have a
long and successful track record, or those at least whom I know consistently
write what I like. Still, once in a while I'll try something new, and
my latest sampling is the subject of this review, THE
RISING, by Brian
Keen. One reason I tried THE
RISING is it fit with my current interest, which is probably more like a minor
obsession; zombies, which I got started on recently with the remake of DAWN OF THE DEAD (but that's another story).
RISING is about the resurrection of the dead to some form of mobile existence,
which includes hunting and devouring the living. All very familiar and
comfortable territory to those who like zombie stories. However, there
are some new wrinkles. These living dead can speak, they even use sarcasm.
They can drive cars. They can use guns. They can plan. They can organize.
That makes it tough for the remaining living, who would have their hands
full with hordes of the regular, brain-dead kinds of lumbering zombies,
but who have it much worse with opponents who are their intellectual equal.
Just to stack the deck even more against the survivors, zombies aren't
limited to just the formerly human. There are animal zombies, and plenty
of them. Dogs, cats, birds, snakes, even fish. Worse, they, too, are intelligent.
You see, all of the living dead have come back from death as much more
than they were when alive; each rotting body is home to a spirit, with
a malicious intelligence, and a hunger for human flesh.
a robust backdrop, is there a story here? Somewhat. It starts well enough;
Jim, a survivor in an underground bunker, is wondering what he's going
to do as his supplies dwindle, and as communications from the outside
taper down to nothing. Blow his brains out? Walk out into the zombies
on the surface? The decision is made for him when the dying batteries
in his cell phone last just long enough to take a message from his son,
Danny, calling from New Jersey where he now lives, after Jim's divorce
(His son went with his former wife, and her new
partner). The living-dead things are in New Jersey too, and his
son needs him.
the journey begins. And it's here that the story changes significantly.
The character development that started with Rick, Danny, and to a smaller
degree, his post-divorce companion, Carrie, mostly ends. Though bits and
pieces are added to what we know of, and about, Rick, through the rest
of the novel, he's still not a fully developed character by the time the
story ends. His son, by comparison, is not much more than a name, though
we do know that he and Rick are close. Carrie is briefly described as
a sympathetic character, only to become a zombie, and quickly disposed.
All right, you might say, they're not the only characters in the novel,
and you'd be right.
with Thomas Martin, a preacher, at the beginning of his journey to New
Jersey; he also meets a former scientist, William Baker, a drug-addicted prostitute,
Frankie, and a mentally-challenged boy named Worm. While there are numerous other characters,
they drop in and out of the novel quickly, as disposable zombie fodder.
And despite lasting for most or all of the story, the few "regulars"
don't get a lot of development; Martin is just a preacher who can handle
a shotgun well; Baker is a bland and colorless "scientist",
and Frankie is a street dweller with the potential for redemption. For
the most part, despite having different names, the characters are interchangeable,
and do the same things, fight with the zombies. You also get a rather
awkward introduction to "Eddie", a Texan with a hot temper,
an appetite for dirty sex, and sporting a tattoo on his arm labelled "Feo
Amante". At least with this character, you have other means to find
out what he's really like.
of fighting with the zombies, that's about 90% of the story. Of course,
that's what you should expect, since it's a zombie novel. But the settings and
situations don't change much. The main characters run to escape the zombies.
They meet more zombies. They kill the zombies. They run some more. One
variation on the cycle is Rick, Frankie, and Worm meet a remnant of the
Army National Guard, commanded by the nutjob Colonel Schow. It seems they
want to retake a research center, now controlled by zombies, that somehow
caused the dead to rise when a physics project went wrong.
happened? It seems the project opened a passage that allowed the entities
inhabiting the living dead to enter our world. And it's here you meet
probably the most interesting character, Ob, seemingly the highest order
entity to get through. He explains some of what's going on, and what they
want with our world. However, you don't get a lot of time with Ob. My
biggest complaint about THE
RISING is the ending. While I won't give it away, it looks like there's going
to be a sequel. Argh!!! I would like to have had a clear resolution. What
did I think of THE
RISING overall? While it's a fair read, both its characters and plot can be skeletal
at times (no pun intended), and a bit over
complicated. I give it 3 bookworms.
This review copyright 2004 E.C.McMullen Jr.
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|BRIAN KEENE BOOKS
The Rising won the Bram Stoker Award for best First
Novel of 2003.
is Brian Keene's second Stoker award. The first was for a short-lived
newsletter Jobs In Hell which he published in the early 2000s.
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