A debut novel, the first installment of a trilogy, mixes a diversity of narrative elements—apocalyptic fiction, black comedy, zombie-powered horror, and dystopian fiction.
Living in a region where humans, brainwashed by the government and media, have become slaves to the inane (fashion, fast food, music, the abuse of pharmaceuticals, etc.), sardonic 17-year-old Biff Christen sees the world as it really is. A disillusioned student at the Maximum Security School of Stonewall Valley, Biff yearns to somehow get away from all of the “false perfection”—the tapestry of everyday lies, existential delusions, and rampant superficiality that seems to blanket everyone. Even the trees are plastic. But on the day that the mayor is set to visit the school, Biff’s bus arrives late, resulting in every student passenger being sent to detention. During the mayor’s visit, however, he becomes gravely ill and inadvertently sets off an epidemic where those afflicted become zombies. As civilization crumbles outside of the walls of the detention room, Biff and a group of misfit students must figure out how to survive. One student finally suggests that Biff take action: “You can lead the group in an escape mission from this place. We don’t know what’s going on, the noise is fading and the night will fall soon. I don’t think anyone is going to get us out of here.” While the ambitiousness of this storyline is certainly laudable, Lüersen, by trying to do too much, falls short on all counts. The dystopian element comes off as unfinished and a bit contrived because there is no kind of back story to act as a foundation for the premise. The zombie aspect has the same unpolished feel—a zombie apocalypse erupts, but there is very little speculation about what exactly sparked the outbreak or even a detailed description of the monsters. The walking dead facet simply becomes a cardboard vehicle for the group’s struggles to prevail. Additionally, the characters are largely unlikable and two-dimensional, leading to an emotionally detached read.
Although filled with potential—particularly in delivering social commentary—this book ultimately fails to achieve its goal of blending genres.