Tuesday, 13 July 2010

‘Day by Day Armageddon’ – J.L. Bourne (Pocket Books)


All over the world there are people tirelessly dedicated to making sure that the general public remain aware of the very real possibility that the dead will someday rise and feast on all that juicy grey matter we carry around with us. No, seriously! It could happen! Look, don’t say I didn’t warn you...
These selfless types can be divided into two main groups. There are people like myself, scouring books and DVDs for visions of the zombie apocalypse and how it can be survived. Any tips I find get passed your way ;o)
Then there are the people who have those very visions; the Kirkmans, Romeros and Keenes. These are the people who know how it will all go down on the day and they’re the people you should listen to if you don’t want to join the ranks of the walking dead...
J.L. Bourne aspires to join these ranks with ‘Day by Day Armageddon’ (formerly published by Permuted Press in the US but published by Pocket Books over here). He doesn’t quite hit those heady heights but the end result is still a book that any fan of zombies will get a lot out of.

What better motivation to keep a diary (everyone’s New Year’s Resolution) than to be swept up in an outbreak of zombies that devastates North America? That’s the situation facing our hero as he fights to stay alive in the aftermath. He’s outnumbered millions to one but he’s got no option other than to keep fighting. Not when the only other alternatives are to become zombie food or a zombie yourself...
For a member of the US armed forces, survival in a zombie wasteland is dangerous but manageable. It’s when the living come on to the scene that things become just plain dangerous...

I found ‘Day by Day Armageddon’ to be a gripping and compulsive read, in no small part down to it’s diary format. The reader gets to see the catastrophe gradually unfold over a number of days and that gradual transition highlights just how bad things are. Bourne also proves to be very adept at using the diary format to heighten the tension at just the right times. Diary entries can either end on a cliff hanger or look like everything is fine and then kick off without any warning; you never know what you’re going to get until you turn that page... This approach certainly kept those pages turning as far as I was concerned.

Bourne fills his book full of dangerous situations to be negotiated round and paints a very grim picture of a zombie infested America as a result (although his naval officer main character tends to get round these situations suspiciously easily...). He very wisely doesn’t elaborate on the cause of the infestation and this air of uncertainty just adds to the impact the reader gets when they see cars abandoned on the highway and hear the undead moaning in the distance... ‘Day by Day Armageddon’ follows all the best zombie media by really laying on the atmosphere. You may not know what caused things to deteriorate so rapidly but you are left in no doubt as to what the end result is. There’s a real spooky feeling in the air and the diary format gives the reader a clever insight into the pressures that face someone in this situation. You can feel the pressure mount and you’re never quite sure how things will go.

It’s a shame then that the format works against, as well as with, the novel. With ‘Day by Day Armageddon’ being a diary, we never really get a feel for who the main character actually is. He obviously has no need to supply these details as he already knows who he is but we’re left with a vague impression of a character that doesn’t become an awful lot more. We learn that he loves his parents but this, and other small details, come across as generic and applicable to anyone really. There’s nothing here that defines our hero as a person in his own right. What this meant for me was that I didn’t feel there was much of a connection between the main character and the landscape that he travels through. This was especially the case when I took into account how easily some zombie obstacles were overcome. The feeling of disconnection was a real hindrance to the smooth flowing of the book itself. Just a few more details could have made all the difference.

At the same time though, Bourne loves his subject matter and this enthusiasm really comes across in the level of detail he goes into with regards to surviving a zombie apocalypse. You can’t help but get enthusiastic about a book when the writer is clearly having a great time writing it! There is an energy here (albeit interrupted from time to time) that’s worth sticking with and Bourne has a handy knack of riffing off other source material yet clearly stamping his voice on the proceedings. ‘Day by Day Armageddon’ ends in a real blast and has me eager to find out what happens next. This is a book that, despite it’s flaws, will take a well earned place on the ‘zombie shelf’...

Eight and Three Quarters out of Ten

1 comment:

Mike and Jeanine said...

I LOVED this book. Prior to reading it, I can't say I was a huge zombie apoc fan. However, this book makes me want to hunt down every last book and read it. I'm also excited for the next book in the series, due out soon!