THIS DARK EARTH by John Hornor Jacobs


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A doctor, her adolescent son and a trucker shelter and defend fellow survivors in the wake of a post-nuclear zombie apocalypse.

This second novel by Jacobs (Southern Gods, 2011) has all of the right elements of the bookshelf’s worth of zombie novels swarming the market in the wake of AMC’s The Walking Dead: zombies, blood, gore, terror and the gruesome mechanics of survival—but this bloody entry also offers something more in style, substance and readability. Lucy Ingersol is a doctor in a southern hospital when the world goes pear-shaped—walking, flesh-eating corpses accompanied by critical nuclear strikes in major American cities. Lucy and her son Gus survive with the help of Jim “Knock-Out” Nickerson, a burly, rough-looking truck driver with a surprisingly gentle nature. Over time, the trio and their followers build an armed fortress off of the Arkansas River, naming their home “Bridge City.” It’s rough business for the adolescent boy being groomed to lead them. “The murderhole is a twenty-by-twenty space between the inner and outer gates, ringed by a walkway about six feet above the ground and connected to the rampart. The zombie’s heads are right at our feet level,” explains Gus. “This was all my idea. Some days I’m not too happy about it.” The novel’s tenderness in places is balanced by a ferocity that pulls no punches. In one story, a woman named Tessa details her misuse at the hands of mercenaries, and her revenge. In another sequence, Gus is captured by a vicious slaver named Konstantin, tortured nearly to death and crucified. Yet there’s heart, too, like the funny sequence, “The Bureaucracy of the Dead,” where a member of the group takes minutes chronicling the terrible decisions that have to be made, often by fiat. Don’t miss the interactive map of Bridge City on Jacobs’ website.

For readers who get off on what-would-I-do? questions, this book offers satisfaction.

Pub Date: July 3rd, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-4516-6666-3
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 2012


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