FRAIL by Joan Frances Turner


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If you’re undead, a zombie or simply a human who enjoys reading about them, this novel will take you for a happily horrifying ride.

Decades in the future, a plague destroys most of humankind along with zombies and the undead. Amy, the narrator, is a 17-year-old frail—a human, she believes—who struggles to survive along the shores of Lake Michigan. She meets a gaggle of undeads and zombies, some of whom don’t seem to have her best interests at heart. In fact, zombies may not have hearts at all, as they neither bleed nor breathe. Amy is a sympathetic character who is fierce when she has to be, although it’s mighty tough for her when she kills someone who won’t stay dead. It’s also tough on an innocent reader delving into his first zombie tale and trying to figure out what’s going on and whether the heroine is making any progress. Turner’s writing is exceptional, though, with an abundance of similes and graphic detail that turn the book into the horror fest it’s supposed to be. There is action aplenty to sweep the reader along, with no lack of surprising twists that make Amy’s life—if she really is alive—pure hell. “I haven’t had a really good hoo-kill in years,” an antagonist whispers. Hoo boy. Amy’s main motivations are to find her mother, who she is certain still lives, and to escape the clutches of creatures various and nefarious. Meanwhile, another character states a recurring theme: “It’s all death. Life’s just slow death, decay, rolling down this huge, endless slope with nothingness at the bottom…” Beyond that, any overarching plot is unclear to a reader who is mired in the page-by-page gore and nihilism. Perhaps a second reading? No. Ain’t gonna happen.

The book should be a big hit with fans of the horror-zombie genre. But it’s unlikely to appeal to many readers outside that niche.



Pub Date: Oct. 4th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-441-02070-6
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Ace/Berkley
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2011