"The Condemned" Book Review
Written by Gabino Iglesias
Published by Delirium Books
Written by David Jack Bell
2010, 224 pages, Fiction
Released on January 8th, 2008
When you're reading a post-apocalyptic horror story in which humans are separated from the grey, shuffling denizens of the outside word by walls and fences, the last thing you expect is to be surprised by how emotionally gritty the tale is. However, in the case of David Jack Bell's The Condemned, the way emotions like guilt, fear, love and trust influence the narrative is precisely the best element of the book.
In The Condemned, Bell gives us a world that's at war. The cities have been abandoned because a terrorist attack on the water supply left them quarantined by the army and inhabited by the City People, grey-skinned beings that resemble zombies and only come out at night to forage and roam around an already devastated landscape. In order to feed the war machine, the government needs metal, and that's where Jett comes in. As part of his job, Jett works retrieving cars from the streets outside of the city, which means he regularly goes into dangerous territory. Jett lost his partner in a race to make a little extra cash and now his life is plagued by nightmares and the inevitable sense of guilt that comes from abandoning his friend to the City People. When he comes back to work, Jett gets a new partner, a young veteran with a fake leg and a very dark, magnetic personality that he calls The Kid. With The Kid putting ideas in his head and leading the way, Jett will set out in a perilous adventure to bring his partner back from the wrong side of the fences. After a lot of killing and uncovering a gloomy secret the government is keeping from citizens and workers alike, the duo find themselves face-to-face with the City People, which will show Jett that nothing is what it seems.
The Condemned works well as a horror story and packs enough jumping shadows, tension, gore, violence, spooky nightmares and fear to keep fans of classic horror satisfied. However, the emotional and psychological journeys of all the characters involved, from Jett and his wife to The Kid, his boss and a few of Jett's coworkers, are what makes this a must-read. While the city is destroyed and only getting worse, we can see the same thing mirrored in Jett's mental state. Similarly, the relationship between him and The Kid is full of dependency, distrust and a good dose of apprehension. If you throw in the macho competition between Jett and one of his coworkers and the way his marriage crumbles even while Jett's main concern is the safety of her baby daughter, what you get is a tome full of fictionalized versions of the problems that fill psychological text books.
While the author could have taken the easy road with the zombie-like denizens of the dilapidated city, the last part of the novel is anything but easy and brings everything to a close while turning the City People into something no one could have imagined. If you're craving a scary tale that's well-written and emotionally gritty, give The Condemned a try.