Monster Nation: A Zombie Novel
by David Wellington
Cover Artist: Henry Diltz
Review by Gayle Surrette
Thunder's Mouth Press Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 1560258667
Date: 28 September, 2006 List Price $13.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Attacked on the street in California, she awakes in an oxygen bar, mask on, tank fully open, sitting in a pool of blood. She can't remember anything of her life prior to the attack. Asked for a name, she chooses Nilla. Disoriented, she seeks help but finds herself in the middle of an epidemic -- people are going mad and killing everyone they run into, tearing them apart with their teeth and hands. Nilla suspects what she has become but knows that she's not like the others -- she can control her hunger. Not knowing what else to do she begins to move east towards the voice that is calling her but she doesn't like his message of chaos and cleansing. What's Nilla's role in this epidemic? Can she make a difference?
Captain Bannerman Clark is called to check out an outbreak of cannibalism in Colorado's maximum security prison. And Dick Walters of NIH is checking out a possible scrapie outbreak in the Rockies, only the call was just a rouse to get help with some dangerous infection spread by hikers biting anyone they ran into. There Nilla, Bannerman, and Dick are going to be key in the battle of humanity against the zombies. There aren't any easy answers and each faces disappointments as they learn that life, friendships, comrades, and trust are not static and maybe ethics are situational and maybe there is no code applies to all situations.
The characters of Nilla and Bannerman are well developed and compelling. They make mistakes, but for the right reasons. Even though at times the character's actions are frustrating, you can understand why they acted that way. On the other hand, while Dick's character is necessary to move forward the plot, I found it frustrating whenever we switched to his POV. (I could tell you why but it would spoil the plot). The Mael Mag Och character was mysterious but didn't seem to have much to do with this storyline other than to draw Nilla to the east coast.
I have to mention the hilarious news announcements that pepper the book breaking up scene changes and POV shifts. Each one is exactly what you'd expect – similar to the news running in the background of Shawn of the Dead. What makes them so hilarious is that reading the book, you know what's happening and the authorities are trying to ignore what seems outlandish. For example:
"Tonight the 16th Street pedestrian mall is closed to foot traffic. Police cars blockaded the popular shopping destination after reports of dangerous animals on the loose. Our action reporting team is on the way to downtown right now, and we'll have film as it becomes available. Meanwhile, here's Chip with local pro team action. Chip?" (pg. 15).Monster Nation is the second volume of Wellington's zombie books (the first was Monster Island but it actually seems to be before the first book in the time line. I haven't read the first book and maybe if I had I wouldn't find Mael Mag Och so annoying. However, Wellington did a bang up job of moving the zombie onto a new level with his take on the mythos. It was interesting and since I'd read parts of The Zombie Survival Guide, I kept thinking of all the things you could do to stay safe during a zombie infestation.