Enjoy this Monday with Mildred!
As the World Dies
by Rhiannon Frater
This trilogy began as an original on-line serial and before long had so many fans wanting more that the author self-published them and sold a lot of copies. The story begins with The First Days, which follows two women who meet on the first day of the zombie apocalypse and their fight to survive. The book is a slam bang adventure set in the Texas hill country and deftly captures the horror, confusion and emotional hurt of the sudden and violent end of civilization.
Katie is a professional woman not dressed for running for her life from her now dead wife, but she does stop to help Jenni, who is standing in shock as her infant son’s dead fingers grope for her from under the door of the house. In fact, those tiny fingers were the image Ms. Frater began with in envisioning the story. It’s a harsh image, and one she goes back to often through the three books.
Book two, Fighting to Survive takes up from the end of book one, in an improvised fort in the small town of Ashley Oaks, Texas. Katie and Jenni, now bff, are only part of a very large cast of characters. While still learning to deal with personal loss and the dangers of the new world, the girls find love where they least expect it. No, it’s not a romance novel.
The last book, Siege, finds the fort having grown large enough to attract the attentions of the evil minded living and a savage horde of undead.
This is a difficult trilogy to read. Like Day by Day Armageddon by J.L. Bourne, Ms. Frater’s writing is clunky, though not nearly as bad as Mr. Bourne’s first book. It’s also difficult because there are a lot of cruel deaths. A lot. There’s also lots of hugging, lots of crying, lots of hand holding, lots of hair talk. I decided the books could be a drinking game every time you read the phrase “her golden locks”.
There are many, many characters in the three books and some of their deaths will simply stun you because it’s easy for the reader to become completely enthralled with their favorites and Ms. Frater is relentless. There is, unfortunately, a certain sameness in their voices, and I found her dialogue to be the weakest link. However,for a fair number of the characters the author goes so deeply into their thoughts, desires, fears, and motivations that you will feel very close to these survivors.
The Texas author is right there with the social commentary, with a superbly diverse cast. The novels speak pointedly about diversity, inclusion, and prejudice, both cultural and religious.
It surprised me to find ghosts throughout the novels, especially the last one. I don’t believe I’ve seen that before. The stories could have been told without the ghosts, but I found it interesting enough not to be annoying. It was annoying how often the dialogue was repetitive or inane, and there were some farfetched ideas and actions one often finds in zombie fiction, like the internet still working months after The End.
Mostly, what you will bring away from the books is a sense that you’ve just spent some really incredible time with some fantastic people. Not that everyone is a good guy; far from it. There were a few scenes that did bring tears to my eyes, which I don’t remember ever happening in a zombie novel before. This deeper feeling of connection is the difference one finds on reading a woman author in the genre, like Madeleine Roux’s books, though those were puddle jumpers compared to this trilogy.
There are three short companion volumes that give the first day stories or deeper backstories for some of our favorite characters. As the World Dies the Untold Tales are written in the same style as the novels, and give you just a little more. Of course that leaves you wanting even more.