A search to cure cancer threatens the world with an outbreak of “cannibalistic walking dead.”
In a last-ditch effort to save his dying wife, Zach Keller signs a Faustian bargain with Dr. Howard Nixon, a sadistic oncologist. It’s not long before Zach connects the dots to Nixon’s “cure,” which includes infecting men with a virus that turns them into zombies—or, as the sinister doctor prefers to call them (“I hate that term”): “infecteds,” or “Ids” for short. The caged Ids, whom Zach learns to feed with microwaved body parts, are used to impregnate women being held against their will. The resulting “stem cells of the unborn hybrids” contain “the missing link to the cancer therapy” Zach’s wife needs. Enter Miranda Penton, who’s in town to start a new life as well as a job at the Nixon Healing and Research Center. Ominously, a man whose daughter went missing warns her that “things in Strandville ain’t what they used to be.” When she disappears, her husband, Scott, aims to put an end to the nefarious experiments by teaming up with Zach and a group of local men whose wives and daughters have also been turned into “Nixon’s Petri dish[es].” Creepy and claustrophobic, with enough gore to please any zombie-phile, Frisch’s book begins promisingly. Her omniscient narrator takes particular joy in the visceral details of horror, tweaking the reader’s senses with a bevy of bodily fluids and dismembered limbs. She has a particular talent for describing the “acrid taste of decay” and the smell of “death leaching from” one’s “pores.” The living, breathing characters aren’t quite as convincing, however. The writing rarely rises to the heart-pounding momentum the narrator tries to build. The narrative takes the time to set up tense, grisly scenes, then resorts to colorless statements—“Tension, fear, and anticipation took over the room”—that ultimately deflate the suspense. The abrupt ending also leaves a number of perplexing, unanswered questions.
A lukewarm buffet of blood and guts that may leave fans of the undead hungry for more.