"Welcome To Deadland" Book Review
Written by John Colianni
Published by Inkshares
Written by Zachary Tyler Linville
2016, 350 pages, Fiction
Released on August 9th, 2016
As a species, we seem to be obsessed with the end of the world. Whether it be nuclear annihilation, some pissed off space rock or the dead that return to feast on the living, we love to consume tv, books, movies and video games that portray a post-apocalyptic world where only the strong willed (or painfully lucky) survive. The ideas of zombies as a world ending scenario is nothing new; a virus or infection has ravaged millions, turning most of the earth's population into flesh hungry fiends whose appetite can only be satiated with a swift blow or bullet to the brain. The stories told in this specific genre are much about how humanity tears itself apart, survives and hopefully rebuilds as it is about the goriness of experiencing someone being devoured from head to toe. The way relationships are built in such stories are important to make believable and genuine so readers and viewers can put themselves into characters and care about their struggles for survival. Zachary Tyler Linville's Welcome to Deadland has its own spin on the pacing of a story of friends surviving the end of the world.
Welcome to Deadland follows the stories of Asher, Wendy and Rico as the zombie apocalypse occurs around them. Asher is a college student facing a crisis of identity among friends and family, just as the world he once knew falls down around him. Wendy is Asher's friend by proximity but is hiding a secret that can compromise their entire relationship amidst the climate of a flesh eating populace. Rico is a troubled teen, mixed up with drugs and a rough crowd before the recent plague of the undead makes him mature in a way that he never thought possible. Through these three characters, we see a world decimated by zombies as they all struggle to survive. Little do they know that their paths will intersect in a way that none of them could have imagined.
As consumers of media and pop culture, we've become desensitized to people being torn limb from limb and having their bones sucked clean of marrow. We no longer shy away from eyes being pulled from their sockets or seeing intestines thrown around like a magician's handkerchiefs. What is most intriguing are the journeys and struggles they endure. The crumbling of humanity has brought Asher, Wendy and Rico on a collision course. While learning about their characters is a great experience, the pacing of the novel is the real standout. It is not chronological. While some may find frustration in imagining reading a Pulp Fiction-style zombie story, it is a refreshing way of handling a narrative that can get stale. Going back and forth between past and present prevents any one point in time from stagnating, while giving Wendy, Asher and Rico the room they need to grow on the readers. Also there is a level of anticipation with leaving one part of the timeline and returning to it later, as the two points in time close the gap. Having teens and early twenty-somethings being the protagonists is another change of pace. We could be reading about how another military organization or cop or close knit family deals with the world overrun with zombies, but choosing to bring younger characters to the forefront was a gamble that paid off nicely for Zachary Tyler Linville.
Welcome to Deadland doesn't bring anything terribly new to a story about surviving the zombie apocalypse. What makes this a standout read are the interactions and interpersonal relationships that unfold. Supporting roles matter and aren't just used as poor plot devices that will just be offed to build a body a count. Honestly, the end of the world scenario could have been another natural disaster and these roles would still fit beautifully, as they are dynamic and multifaceted. While the ending isn't quite what I wanted from the rest of the story, that feeling quickly dispersed when I realized how much of a page turner this was. I'll be keeping an eye out for more of Zachary Tyler Linville's work in the future.