"Dead Summit" Book Review
Written by Daniel Loubier
2011, 344 pages, Fiction
Released on September 13th, 2011
To find a fresh and unique zombie novel is quite a challenge nowadays. However, author Daniel Loubier created just that by entering the saturated zombie genre with Dead Summit, a novel that combines action, love, the outdoors and the undead in a very distinctive way.
In Dead Summit we follow Grace and Charlie, a young married couple who head to a mountain in New Hampshire to enjoy a risky but satisfying climb to the summit. As soon as the couple arrives at the mountain, an eerie feeling takes over them and the author starts slowly building momentum towards the mayhem that will shortly erupt. The novel's beginning reads like Loubier’s ode to the classic scary movie setup: a man tells the couple a horrible story while they get some supplies at a store, Grace has some nightmares and then, when they reach the hut they’ll stay in before summiting, folks gather around to tell scary stories of bad things that happened a long time ago.
The next night, the scary stories come to life when the undead show up. The action sequences inside the hut are packed with tension and energy and add an even more accelerated touch to an already fast-paced story. Grace and Charlie manage to escape the hut and try to sprint their way to the summit and what follows is a combination of classic zombie action and gore set in the dangerous wilderness of a mountain and a narrative of survival that's anchored in Grace and Charlie's devotion to one another.
Loubier's prose is tight and keeps the story rolling with practically no downtime. However, after Grace and Charlie tread through a living hell and finally reach the summit only to find the salvation they'd hoped for is not there, the storyline takes an unexpected turn and Dead Summit suddenly turns into a different novel. Actually, it could be said that the book, which weighs in at a hefty 344 pages, contains two different novels tied together by a single plot.
The first part of the novel is a high-speed, adrenaline-soaked tale of survival at all costs in which heads are bashed in, tensions run high and even Charlie's bad knee hovers above the couple like a curse and threatens to obliterate any chance of survival. However, the second part, which begins after Grace escapes from the summit fiasco, suffers from a considerable drop in terms of pacing. Huddled inside the hut with the man that told them the scary story while they got supplies, Grace is thrown into a world of regret, pain and endless waiting. As the two survivors wait for the zombies to disappear, we first read about their life inside the hut, get detailed descriptions of their interactions and read Grace's diary. Towards the end, the narrative includes a second diary started by one of the victims of the first fatidic night and a lot of idle time spent by Grace basically just being alive and waiting for a resolution.
Considering the tempo the first part sustains, the second part can become a tad tedious. This, coupled with the fact that Loubier chose to explain away the zombies with "an energy" that brings them back every few years, are the two elements that keep me from giving the novel a better rating. However, they're not enough to outweigh the fact that Dead Summit is a thoroughly entertaining read and a truly unique spin on a genre that at times seems to be cannibalizing itself. Definitely worth checking out.