"The First Days: As the World Dies" Book Review
Written by Rhiannon Frater
2011, 336 pages, Fiction
Released on July 5th, 2011
In my movie reviews, I've often complained about how technology is making it possible for seemingly anyone with a few bucks to make a movie, training, knowledge and education be damned. Certainly there are times you get your gold in your mountains of crapola, and those are the times that make this reviewing gig worth while. But the fact remains that just because it's possible to buy a camera that shoots a gorgeous picture, it doesn't mean you can go out and make a film.
I've noticed lately, since HorrorTalk has delved more and more into book reviewing, that the internet is making it easier for unpublished authors to get more exposure, via blogs and print on demand sites like Lulu.com, which allow budding writers to self-publish without the need of a major publishing house. Hell, you can even sell your work on Amazon now, straight to someone's Kindle.
I'm torn on this. On one hand, like those jokers who run around with a video camera, the market gets flooded with shit. But on the other, there is talent that may have otherwise been undiscovered without the powerhouse of the internet. Authors like David Wellington, who put his novel Monster Island on the web serial style, later to be published, make me grudgingly accept that I will, like movies, have to take the good with the bad.
Rhiannon Frater, like Wellington, offered The First Days up on the internet for all to enjoy. She built a following via word of mouth, and now Tor Books will be releasing Days on July 5th. Like Monster Island, this is one where the book deserves to be on the shelves for mass consumption.
The First Days, the first in what is planned to be a trilogy, is a zombie apocalypse novel. Heavily influenced by the Romero films — you know this because the characters mention Dawn of the Dead (more specifically, Ken Foree) often — the novel follows Katie and Jenni on a quest across Texas in search of safety and Jenni's son.
The book opens strong. Jenni is in a daze, her family turned into flesh eaters and looking to eat her for lunch, when seemingly out of nowhere, Katie comes tearing into her life in a pickup, saves her life and the two are on their way to destinations unknown. Because of the situation of, you know, the dead rising, the two bond quickly and tightly.
The First Days is a strong novel for up-and-coming author Rhinannon Frater. She packs a ton of action and gore into her book, and it moves at a satisfyingly brisk pace, never getting dull. Her characters are a bit cookie cut, but she doesn't fall into the trap of lesser writers by having bland characters that sound the same. Jenni is night to Katie's day, and each side character that comes into their lives is distinct as well. Plus, Frater had me believe the closeness of Jenni and Katie, even though the two had not known each other for very long. Jenni's raging insecurity and Katie's constant desire to help those in need make the bond a believable one.
However, one thing the book sorely lacks is any sort of conflict. Sure, you have the zombies and they are obviously a danger, but outside of the walking dead, there's no sort of threat to the girls. Nothing that would threaten their friendship, or cause strife or hurt. Hell, there's only one death in the book of someone you kind of care about, but not nearly enough time was spent with that character to have a big enough of an impact. There is almost a conflict created with a love triangle, but Frater wraps that up in a neat little package with nobody's feelings getting too hurt. Frater also almost manages to create a nice little threat in the form of some drug dealers, but that too is squashed before anything can come of it.
However, I have a lot of hope for this series. The two sequels, Fighting to Survive and Siege, will be released in Fall 2011 and Winter 2011 respectively, and if The First Days is any indication of Rhiannon Frater's skill, I can imagine more threats will be coming. I'm hoping so, because I'm going to be along for the ride watching for them.
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