Horrorible Review: “The Savage Dead”

Enjoy this Monday with Mildred!

The Savage Dead book cover

The Savage Dead

If you believe the reviews for Joe McKinney’s books on Amazon, you might think you’re on your way to an amusement park, because there always seems to be a roller coaster in there somewhere. There are a lot of zombie novels in McKinney park, and I’ve read two of them so far.  Dead City is the first of the Dead World series, and I read it years ago.  I thought it was okay, but my biggest problem with it was how conveniently superheroic the protagonist turned out to be.  He’s not just a young city cop, but a man who can wade through a thousand rabid zombies without a scratch.

Yeah, that kinda doesn’t work for me.  But I did like his writing style, and the book was a fun read if you’re able to suspend your disbelief enough, so I got one of his newer books, The Savage Dead and gave it a whirl.

Again, it’s a pretty good book.  This time the requisite cool and exotic locale is a cruise ship setting sail from a Texas port, and that’s because McKinney is a Texas boy himself.  As with Dead City, once the action gets going it really is relentless, though the book never seems to drag.  Lead roles in this book are split fairly evenly between the ex-Delta force secret service agent Juan Perez and the zombie infection-spreading bad guy, who is a believably evil Mexican woman working for a drug czar.  Three prominent co-stars feature as well, with an unfortunately stereotypical U.S. Senator, her aide, and Perez’s second in command.  The senator and Perez’s second are also women characters, making this one of the most female heavy zombie novels written by a man that I remember reading.

I can hear you waiting breathlessly for my assessment of the women characters, so I’ll just get to it.  They’re not terribly masculine, which is always a danger male authors must find a way around.  I found them to be just as entertaining and central to the plot as the lead, though everyone was at least a little stereotypical, whatever their function to the story.  Despite a lot of backstory thrown at us for the major characters, I never felt a depth of familiarity, but that could simply be because a lot of the book is shooting and running and chewing and carnage.  There is a lot of action in this novel, and a good portion of it isn’t just mano a zombie.  A lot of people get killed, and this creates a lot of suspense for our main characters.

Though The Savage Dead bears a lot of resemblance to Dead City, I felt he has gotten stronger as an author over the years.  There are more characters in the book and the plot goes further than people die and then rise and make our hero’s life hell for a couple hundred pages. He still does the superhero thing, though, making his characters able to do a little too much to be completely believable.

Author Joe McKinney writes entertaining books that aren’t afraid of a good firefight in sticky situations.  You’re not going to get the deeply character oriented stories of Rhiannon Frater, or the dense stories of John L. Campbell, but if you’re looking for a fast and exciting zombie adventure, you might try this author.

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