Sunday, 25 November 2012

Book Review & Giveaway: Meta-Horde by Sean T. Page & John McCuaig

"The year 2020 was a good one for the walking dead. 
The initial reports of a mysterious plague reanimating corpses caused unbridled chaos and as the world descended into hell, nations turned on each other in the battle to survive. Europe is devastated. 

The remnants of NATO managed to create safe zones within cities that still had the protection of medieval built stonewalls. Once again, these ancient bastions were a sanctuary from invaders, keeping back the dead legions. The rest of the continent was a dead zone - populated by hundreds of millions of walking corpses. 

The medieval fortress-city of Carcassonne, in Southern France, became the headquarters of the living but as the last pockets of human survivors rebuilt the fragile framework of a new society, one man discovers a terrifying secret. So far, what has happened is only the beginning. 

Humanity now faces a true extinction level event. 

The dead are clustering in massive numbers. Mere walls can't defend against the overwhelming force of the meta-horde."

This is the intriguing plot of Meta-Horde, the latest zombie book from Sean T. Page (The Official Zombie Handbook, War Against the Walking Dead) and John McCuaig (The Church, The Pyramid of the Dead). Whilst the book has an overt zombie theme, it's also very reminiscent of many books (and films) set during WW1 and WW2, especially with soldiers from various nations coming together to fight a common enemy and the civilian population being expected to fight as well.

The story opens in Dubrovnik, Croatia, but swiftly moves to Carcassonne, France. It's here that the main character, an English scientist called Dr. Raymond Carter, his young, German lab assistant Darcy and Gary the obnoxious, teenage computer genius are introduced. They discover the meta-hordes of hundreds of millions of zombies forming and collectively migrating together. Then, with the help of the military presence within the city, the three start to calculate and form a viable plan of attack. This part of the story line is excellent; it's well thought-out, unusual and really made me want to keep reading.

Unfortunately, there is a twist part way through that really doesn't make a lot of sense and somewhat takes away from the great story that has been built up until that point. It could have been redeemed by more in-depth explanations and solid motives, but that didn't happen. Ultimately, it seemed as though the twist was introduced to provide a way of continuing the story, should the authors decide to write a sequel. It doesn't ruin the book completely, but it does detract from Meta-Horde as a stand-alone a little though.

Apart from this plot point, the novel was well-written, on the whole, though there were quite a few typos and grammatical errors that probably should have been spotted during the editing and drafting process. (So of course this means that I will probably end up missing some errors in this review...) Still, the writing flowed well and was consistent from chapter to chapter.

Although the plot is an important part of the novel, to me it seemed largely character-driven throughout. This is somewhat problematic, as I really started to dislike Carter about halfway through. I wasn't particularly fond of the vulgar and violent soldier Taylor either, but at least he doesn't self-righteously chastise others for behaving the same way he does. Moreover, I don't think that the authors intended Taylor to be likable, for the most part.

The problem I have with Carter's character is largely due to his hypocritical attitude towards saving Darcy at the expense of other people, while constantly criticising others for that exact same kind of selfishness. I understand that she's supposed to be like a daughter to him and, therefore, the only family that he has left, but he constantly bleats on about the (lack of) morality of the actions taken by everyone else. Yet when he needs them to help Darcy, those morals are abandoned almost instantly without any regrets. Perhaps the point is that people who wouldn't ordinarily behave in such a way are changed by their circumstances and the horrific realities of war (and zombies...), but Carter is present in such a substantial portion of the book that it's hard to keep that in mind during every one of his outbursts.

However, there are a plethora of other characters, each with their own personalities and back stories, involved throughout the novel. At times it seems as though there are too many personalities crammed into the 246 pages of plot and some of the characters are left undeveloped and seem quite generic. Having said that, there are others - particularly the soldiers - to whom Page & McCuaig give lots of dimensions and slowly deepen over the course of the book.

At this point, you may be wondering why there are so few mentions of the undead contained in a review of a book about zombies. Well, there really aren't that many zombies in the book. Or rather, there are millions mentioned, but they are always in the background gnashing their teeth, moaning and lurching their way forward, driven by their unsatisfied hunger for human flesh.

Even when the survivors are in conflict with the shambling masses, the horde are still predominantly a backdrop to the story progression. They serve as a grotesque, constant threat to humanity, with the occasional unique physical description here and there, but without individual identities. This meant that there was no screaming and shrieking at the mere sight of zombies, as there are in many stories of this genre. The silence, followed by mild but quiet panic that follows the sightings of an imminent zombie danger works much better here; especially as the dead are drawn in and frenzied by particularly loud noises. Besides, I think, after years of battling zombies that people would have reached this level of desensitisation towards the dead anyway, if only to keep their nerves and sanity in tact.

Meta-Horde, like any book, has flaws but overall it was an interesting read with a great starting premise. It was well-written and had a (mostly) plausible plot. Anyone who likes zombie action-dramas, apocalyptic war-time survival horrors / dramas or even conspiracy theory narratives will probably enjoy this book immensely.

Want to get your hands on a copy of Meta-Horde? 
Enter the giveaway below before December 5th for a chance to win!
Open internationally.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Many thanks to John McCuaig for providing the giveaway prize.

Meta-Horde is out now! 
To purchase the book or find more about the authors, visit the links below:

1 comment:

  1. Many thanks for the review and good luck to everyone who enters the competition.


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