Earlier in the 28th century, a ruthless Master race killed billions of people it had enslaved, only to see the genocide victims arise as zombies and turn on their tormentors. Now able to overturn their captors, the still-living former slaves are threatened by both flesh-eaters and surviving Masters looking to retake power.
Yes, another living-dead tale. But to Robinson's credit, he treats the genre with a light hand and even a touch of comic-book charm. At the heart of the story is a newly created quasi-human named Freeman. A curious combination of naïveté and supersophisticated nanomachine parts, Freeman can instantly differentiate among 76 different smells and call upon a full range of optical powers but knows nothing about simple feelings and sensations. Drawing on elements of The Wizard of Oz, Star Wars and Sam Raimi's Evil Dead movies, Robinson’s novel proceeds at a nonstop pace as the former slaves survive one cliffhanger after another. Among those counting on Freeman to lead them into a new age of freedom are Heap, his loyal, heavily armored friend, who once worked on the Masters' security force; Mohr, a peace-and-love-spouting councilman who programmed Freeman; and Luscious, a red-haired and red-shoed girl with whom Freeman discovers love and music. Certain tropes prevail: You still have to shoot zombies in the head to permanently kill them. But in this tale, the massive number of lost souls can create earthquakes merely by moving around underground.
The author of Secondworld (2012) and Island 731 (2013) offers a fresh twist on the zombie apocalypse.