"Fighting to Survive: As the World Dies, Book 2" Book Review
Written by Rhiannon Frater
2011, 368 pages, Fiction
Released on November 8th, 2011
Fighting to Survive, the second book in the As the World Dies series, picks up not long after its predecessor, The First Days, left off. Our heroines Katie and Jenni are somewhat safe in a barricaded town in Texas and both are finding new love in this new world filled with death in the form of a zombie uprising. But even behind the walls of their new home, things aren't safe. There's more than just the walking dead outside to worry about, there's a vigilante and people being assholes on the inside.
In my review of The First Days, my major complaint of the book was that there was very little conflict outside of the zombies. Well, author Rhiannon Frater has made up for that in spades in this follow up novel. First, she amps up the walkers to a major threat. In addition to them posing an ongoing danger to the townspeople who leave the safety of the city to go looking for supplies and other survivors, the characters face an epic battle as they make their way through the town's historic hotel to clean it out so people can live there. It seems that living in a tent for the winter just doesn't fly for some.
Next, Frater has thrown a group of roving bandits into the mix. It seems this gang of thugs is systematically wiping out pockets of survivors around the town, killing the men and taking the women and food. It's only a matter of time before the city is the next target.
Lastly, there is still the vigilante from book one, who is now responsible for the death of at least three people. Granted, all three of these jackasses had reason to die, but the thought of those in charge is: if you are going to start a new world, it's should be started on the proper foot with fair justice.
While the action added to the novel by these dangers is very much enjoyable, there seems to be a lack of threat to the main characters. Sure, there are plenty more deaths going down, but it's either no one you really care about (as they were never fully developed) or the characters were such assholes they deserved to die. (Although it could be argued that one particular protagonist adds a lot of drama and shouldn't be dispatched.) In her afterword, Frater writes, "I wrote about the bandits and their brutality, Shane and his attempted rape, and the haunting of Jenni by her abusive husband's ghost while the murderer of my cousin was standing trial. Frustrated and angry with real life, it was hard to write about terrible things happening to my favorite characters." But that's the problem; she never takes it to a level where I actually fear for any of the major players. One character almost gets raped. One character almost gets bit. One character almost gets accused of a crime he didn't commit. Almost isn't good enough. If Frater wants to punch the reader in the gut and take her writing to the next level, someone desperately needs to die; someone I actually give a shit about. I can certainly empathize with her. No writer wants to kill off a character they've spent so much time developing, and that's understandable. But in order for me to care for the characters, I need to know that they are in some real danger and not just floating in a safe bubble throughout the series. Because that's what it feels like now.
However, even with that, I like where Frater is taking this As the World Dies series. As raw as she is, there are strokes of genius writing within the novel. She tends to overuse the word "fuck", but makes up for it with lines like the one Jenni replies with after she is asked what is wrong by her boyfriend: "'Nothing,' she answered truthfully. 'It just took me a while to figure that out.'" In the context of the story, that's a superb, well written answer. And even though Frater continuously drills in Jenni's nickname of Loca at every opportunity (I get it, she's crazy), she follows it up with making Nerit, the Israel sniper, such a completely bad ass character that I will be super pissed if that's the person she decides to off (assuming that ever happens). And even though the power is still running in the world (when it should have been long off), Frater points out that the zombies are deteriorating more and more each day, possibly foreshadowing what the ultimate end to this series will be.
Perhaps I'm being overly critical of Rhiannon Frater, but if I am it's only because I have so much hope for where this trilogy will end up. Even with its flaws, the book is quite enjoyable and is an easy recommendation for those with a love for zombie apocalypses. Sure she's green, but Fighting to Survive is a fast read with a lot of action and there's more than a glimpse of the talent that Frater wields behind her pen. There's even a jaw dropping decision Nerit makes at the height of the bandit / town showdown that I certainly did not see coming. Give it a read now and when Frater blows up you can say you've been reading her since the beginning. (Kidding. Don't say that when it happens. Nobody likes a hipster.)