In Stricklin’s debut, a zombie apocalypse brings four people together on a quest to find safe haven.
Whether they’re called zombies, walkers, or—as they’re called here—screamers, the image of a mindless mob on the hunt can be a powerful metaphor, an interesting thought experiment for reassessing our human priorities, or an excuse for adventure. Stricklin’s debut novel falls into the last category. Narrator Derrick nearly gets killed by the first screamer he sees in his barn, until a stranger named Mark saves him. Mark, from Mobile, Alabama, wants to find his sister in Jackson, Mississippi, and Derrick wants to save his wife in New Orleans, so the two start off on a road trip, rescuing a beautiful doctoral student named Katy on the way. As is typical in zombie stories, there are some close calls, as when Derrick and Mark get attacked by screamers in a gas station; less typically, the three of them get into conversations about their favorite bands and similar topics new friends discuss. Also common with zombie stories, some of the danger comes from other humans. When they reach Jackson, they discover that a few of the survivors are either trigger-happy or insane; the friends also find themselves caught in an attempt to infiltrate a human camp to stop their dangerous plans. In many ways, this is a pleasant and breezily told zombie adventure story; yet when Stricklin deviates from the norm—say, in giving Derrick psychic flashes of his wife—such detours are generally more perplexing than interesting. Occasionally, the writing can be rather odd, as when Mark screams, “I have revenge to exact,” or when “Blood popped out like a tiny water balloon busted on his face.” There are hints that something bigger than a zombie outbreak is afoot, which is also somewhat surprising, though readers may not find the surprise terribly engaging.
Entertaining though not groundbreaking zombie survival story.