Dead City

Dead City - Joe McKinney For my full-length review, please visit Casual Debris.

Nothing earth-shattering, McKinney nonetheless manages to fuse his book with violent urban zombie adventure and a few scattered comments on the decline of modern society. There were elements I liked and elements I liked less, but I appreciate his attempt to cover so many elements common to zombie fiction. Besides the violent action and social touches, we are given a narrow geographical setting, philosophical brooding, scientific speculation, episodic scenarios, varied characters of varying race and gender, character tensions, dialogue, family drama, a range of arsenal, slow deaths and quick deaths, and slow zombies and quick moving zombies. Surprisingly the end result is not a mess.

My preferred elements included the focus on police procedure, and the personal character elements which heightened the overall drama. McKinney was once a police officer and is clearly comfortable writing from the point of view of a young cop trying to survive a zombie uprising. The knowledge of everything from weapons, police vehicles and police procedure make the read interesting and somewhat educational. In fact, protagonist and narrator Eddie Hudson is believable as both cop and brand new father. The attention to Hudson's concern for wife and son are not at all sappy, but are rather welcome in the midst of zombie gore.

A few things I would have done without. The early references to zombie movies mar the suspension of disbelief as they place the story in a fictional context. Moreover, if the characters are familiar with the dead of Romero and others, they would immediately shoot at the zombie heads rather than their chests. Anyone familiar with the genre would instinctively go for the head shot.

SPOILER ALERT. There are some missed character opportunities, particularly with Channel 9 reporter Sandy Navarro. There is a three-way tension built into the story when the sexy reporter appears, and I was getting psyched up for some character tension amid the urban chaos, yet it doesn't go anywhere, and when the three drive off from their meeting, Sandy becomes a non-character (as though leaving the church turns her into a zombie), and she sits quietly in the back seat until she's devoured. Literally.

While the first person narration is surprisingly good, with consistent and fluid sentences, the dialogue is at times weak, particularly with the bantering between cops Hudson and Marcus. The humour also doesn't work as it feels forced.

Finally, the occasional typos and grammatical errors were irritating. Copy editors should learn the proper use of lay and lie.

The good outweighs the bad and at some point, when the mood grips me, I'll likely pick up its sequel.