Dead of Night: A Zombie Novel
by Jonathan Maberry
Review by Harriet Klausner
St. Martin's Griffin Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780312552190
Date: 25 October 2011 List Price $14.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
In Stebbins County, Pennsylvania the state penitentiary doctor injects a serum into serial killer Homer Gibbon just prior to his execution. The elixir, created as Project Lucifer in the Soviet Union but stolen by operatives during the Reagan era, would keep the psychopath's brain functioning while his body rotted away interred in the ground. At the Hartnup's Transition Estate, Doc Lee Hartnup is bitten by the corpse of state executed serial killer Homer Gibbon. When the cops learn of a break in at the funeral parlor, police officers Dez Fox and JT Hammond respond. They witness the dead including Hartnup coming at them before escaping.
At the same time Dez's former boyfriend reporter Billy Trout investigates a report that Gibbon's body is missing. He soon runs into dead people trying to rip his body apart. He avoids them and finally catches up with Dez and JT. They compare notes, realizing how highly contagious this disease is and it could mean the end of humanity if not contained. Thus the State Governor activates the National Guard, but not to protect those still alive inside the dead zone. Instead it is to insure the bioengineered toxin remains inside the area.
With a nod to George Romero including the locale, Jonathan Maberry provides an entertaining action-packed zombie thriller. The cause for the epidemic is stolen Cold War research used on a psychopath. Gibbon is zombie zero who was a serial killer when he lived and a serial killer after he died. The other zombies are not as animated as Gibbon is but still seek fresh flesh.
The lead trio has diverse personalities so they react differently with what they have witnessed; though all are horrified. They conclude that they are the only hope to keep other humans alive in the reanimation zone; perhaps superego on their part. Still they base their belief on their knowledge of what is happening with the epidemic potential of the infestation and slowly conclude no outside help is coming; as the threesome assumes the government chose containment and if necessary bombing with acceptable civilian casualties; no zombie can be allowed to escape.
Although somewhat similar in tone to the typical zombie thriller, Dead of Night is a fresh horror tale. Dark and gory, the psychological impact on the living especially the three leads enhances the bleak helplessness as they know that no matter what they do there is no escape.