Ship of the Dead (An Omega Days Novel)
by John L. Campbell
Review by Jon Guenther
Berkley Trade Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780425272640
Date: 07 October 2014 List Price $15.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
John L. Campbell gripped me in his first zombie thriller, Omega Days and book two, Ship of the Dead, was pretty good. But it wasn't great. For some reason, I found some things in this one that just didn't rise to the top.
Mr. Campbell has a great voice, and his action narrative is precise and appropriate, easily enough to keep me reading. What I think didn't shine in this book that made the first novel much stronger were the characterizations. The back-stories were there but they were told in an almost plodding fashion, to the degree I started to feel the author was growing tired of his own work. There are clear passages where I got the sense it wasn't "working" and rather than excise it the stuff just got a pass.
A second weakness I found was the almost choppy change in viewpoint. Scenes seemed as if they had followed one order before and were suddenly cut and pasted around until the story lost a natural flow. While I can't say for sure, it almost seemed like the book suffered an editorial hand less savvy to this kind of fiction. This surprise me since the first book demonstrated such stellar storytelling ability on the level of King and Koontz.
Things I loved included the concept of this taking place, in part, on the U.S. Navy vessel USS Nimitz. That was a perfectly eerie setting for apocalyptic action, and a perfectly plausible device for a sequel. Moreover, the climax in this was absolutely a no-holds barred, teeth-gritting, white-knuckle experience and I don't exaggerate on those points. I was riveted about the last 90 pages, or so.
Putting aside the lack of character growth and patches of almost weary exposition, Ship of the Dead was good enough to keep me vested in the series, and I anticipate the next novel (Drifters is scheduled for release on 1/6/2015) will be another solid read. Hopefully, Mr. Campbell won't hold back in that one. Still, this is definitely good entertainment for fans of this sub-genre.