Title: Sadie Walker is Stranded
Author: Madeleine Roux
Genre: Zombie Apcolypse/Survival
Review: “We need to get in that house.” – Sadie Walker
The zombie apocalypse has gone down quicker than a bourbon shot over at Paris’ place and Sadie Walker, a former illustrator, is eking out a living behind the fortified walls of Seattle. Hanging with Sadie are her young nephew Shane, who I think has a touch of Asperger, her live in boyfriend Carl, and her best buddy Andrea. When Carl betrays her Sadie and Andrea swing into action, which is just as well as the living dead are pouring into Seattle following a cult, the “Repopulationists”, tearing down some of the fortifications as they exited stage left.
With the zombies in the streets Sadie, Andrea, and Shane get a helping hand into a small boat courtesy of Andrea’s Uncle Arturo, and set sail for destinations unknown. Naturally this ends up in disaster with a small group of survivors stranded on an Island surrounded by zombies. As luck would have it another group is on the Island who are stocked up on food and weaponry. Sadie’s group merges with the others and they all settle in to wait out the “The Outbreak”. An ever growing zombie menace has other ideas, and with something else picking them off one by one escape from the Island seems the only course of action. Can Sadie get it right and will she do what Allison Hewitt would do.
Sadie Walker is Stranded is a sequel of sorts to Madeleine Roux’s excellent debut novel Allison Hewitt is Trapped. While the new novel is set in the same universe, and takes place after the zombie apocalypse, none of the characters Roux creates are featured in the first book or have any real connection to events in that book. Our focal character for the evening, Sadie Walker, is somewhat obsessed with Allison, who has become a cult hero, but other than that consider Stranded as a completely separate tale of survivors facing the lumbering hordes.
Recently zombies have become flavour of the month in U.S small press dark genre publishing which has led to increasing numbers of poorly thought out and written novels being devoured by the masses. Thankfully Writers like Madeleine Roux are around to put pen to paper, finger to keyboard, crayon to butcher’s paper, and present for our entertainment well-crafted novels that just happen to involve zombies. Roux has a formidable writing style that while modern, hey Stephen King is old fashion yo, still reads as well written prose. Every cat has it’s day and I believe in Roux we are witnessing a transfer from the 1980s style horror writing of your Stephen Kings and James Herberts to a more modern style to match social trends. Please note Roux doesn’t descend into SMS speak or any other crime against the written language, but she does write in a brisk, no nonsense, vibrant fashion that certainly had me glued to the page like a Michael Meyers victim pinned to a kitchen cabinet. The danger for me was rushing through the book, Roux surely has that page turning thing down, so I had to parcel out the reading a chapter at a time. I now know how drug withdraw feels!
What’s cool about Stranded is that Roux while luxuriating in current zombie mythology, here we’re talking Romero shamblers not the decidedably stupid idea that zombies can move at about the same warp factor as an Olympic sprinter, she also expands on the mythos and adds some new dimensions to the rotten corpse of the sub-genre. Okay I can’t mention one notion Roux throws on the table as it would give away a twist coming at you, but the whole concept of zombies emulating sharks and going underwater was pretty cool and striking. Yes I know World War Z also toyed with the same idea, but in that book the living dead were stationary under the waves rather than being a clear and present danger. Think getting out of the water as Jaws bears down on you only to have Jaws follow you up the beach! Outstanding, I was high fiving the people I keep chained in my imaginary attic.
Okay so there’s a couple of weak aspects to Stranded that may influence a few people toying with a read, my advice would be just read the book the issues aren’t deal breakers. I got the feeling post fleeing Seattle and prior to merging with the other group that the pace ofStranded dropped off markedly, at stages it did become slow going to get through an entire block of the book. Guess Roux was getting us to know her collection of characters, but some additional zombie mayhem would have been appreciated. Equally the whole “rabbit”, slang for the “Repopulationists”, thing wasn’t handled as deftly as it could be. There’s an adage in criticism that if something is central to a development in the later part of the book it should be grounded and built towards from the start of the book. I didn’t think Sadie’s reaction to a certain character who was formerly a rabbit rang true, she pretty much over reacted as the situation came out of the blue and wasn’t built toward adequately in my ill-informed opinion. And finally, this is going to be vague due to spoilers, the solution to the mystery of who is nailing the characters one by one in particularly gruesome fashion was somewhat trite. Yes I didn’t pick the twist, but one of the aspects of that twist seemed to have been laboured and didn’t ring with absolute authenticity.
While the above weaknesses may be problematic for some I still think we’re dealing with a pretty good read here friends and neighbours. You get a zombie novel, and Roux doesn’t pull her punches with all that involves, a good murder mystery with added Psycho topping, and a rousing read in the later sections of the novel that will have you grinning ear to ear. I’ve got no issue with giving Stranded a full recommendation, I can almost guarantee this novel will be the best zombie outing of 2012.
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