"Breaking News: An Autozombiography" Book Review
Written by James "Spez" Ferguson
Published by Cissbury Publishing
Written by N.J. Hallard
2010, 299 pages, Fiction
Released on August 26th, 2010
Not a week goes by where I don't mention the zombie apocalypse. I don't know if that makes me weird or prepared, but I'm sure that if I were to bring it up in the presence of N.J. Hallard, it would make for great conversation. Hallard's first novel, Breaking News: An Autozombiography explores the specifics about how a group of friends survive when the dead begin rising. When I say specifics, I mean it. The author goes into tremendous detail regarding the whys and wherefores on how the characters get through each day. This is the book's greatest strength and weakness.
A certain level of detail is needed for any story but with most books the reader is given the ability to use their imagination a little. There is no room for error when it comes to the events in Breaking News. Everything is chronicled in such specific detail that it almost felt like the unofficial companion book to The Zombie Survival Guide which is not necessarily bad company to be in. Hallard appears to know about the details though as he mentions in the prologue that he "included as many inane details as possible." This might work for a history or text book but it makes for a very tough read when it comes to a story.
The story itself is rather interesting, if a little bulky. Our hero (who's not given a name as far as I can tell) is an average pub sign maker living in Southern England. He's a fan of zombie films, although they scare the crap out of him. He may not know it, but he's been preparing to fight hordes of the undead for the better part of his life. He's married to a woman named Lou and has a dog named Floyd. He's with his best friend, Al, when the zombie outbreak begins, but his wife is at work so they battle their way to pick her up. Time passes and the group of them ends up building a camp on top of Cissbury Ring, a hill nearby. It is here that they make a stand and begin their new lives along with several others that look to the hill for shelter.
What I found refreshing about Breaking News was that there was no hesitation involved. Our main character recognizes the tell tale signs of the zombie apocalypse and takes steps to keep his friends and family safe from bite marks. He takes no unnecessary risks and plans ahead. All too often zombie films are filled with people that keep doubting the inevitable. "Oh, maybe there's a cure." "We don't have to kill them." "Maybe they'll get better." Bullshit. These people are dead and they want to eat your brains. Now pick up a weapon and smash their skulls in. That's the kind of attitude we see here and it is awesome.
Hallard also hand drew about 12 pictures for the book. While these are just pencil sketches, they do help illustrate what is going on a little. Each picture is framed like a cross section of earth with skulls and bones on the bottom leading up to dirt and more bones and finally a zombie sprawled across the top on some grass.
I also have to give Hallard credit for self-publishing the book. It's great to see someone taking advantage of the opportunities that are available in this day and age. One downside to self-publishing is the lack of an editor and Hallard would have definitely benefited from an experienced proof-reader. The book has some spelling errors that can be forgiven, but there are several grammatical mistakes that a regular spellchecker wouldn't catch. I'm talking about stuff like using "where" when he meant "were" or the wrong form of your / you're. There are also plot holes scattered throughout the story. The one that bugged me the most was Lou's car. She claims that someone went into her purse, took her car keys and made off with her car. When the boys get there to take her home she says that there was broken glass on the ground where the car had been. If someone had her keys why would they break into her car?
Breaking News is not a bad novel. It's a good effort from a first time author and there is some great potential here. It should probably be trimmed as the detail can be a bit much, but it's nothing that a good editor couldn't help with. If and when the zombie apocalypse does come, I'm going to make sure I have a copy of this book nearby.
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