The last decade or so has been a sort of renaissance for all things zombies. Zombies have become the “monster of the moment” in the entertainment industry. These shambling undead (or Olympic sprinters for some of the more modern take on the genre) have permeated film, video games, comic books and novels. Even tv has been invaded by the recently ambulatory dead. J.L. Bourne debuts with a fast-paced and exciting first novel that takes the well-known conventions of the zombie tale and gives it a nice personal touch to set it apart from the many other zombie novels flooding the market.
Day by Day Armageddon doesn’t go the usual straight narrative of most novels. The novel’s written in the point-of-view of an anonymous narrator, but told through an epistolary-style Ssmilar to Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Bourne’s novel tells the story of this one man’s struggles to survive the gradual collapse of civilization and then the days in a post-apocalyptic undead world around him through journal entries he has taken up to keep himself sane and focused. Bourne’s choice of writing style lends a bit of a personal touch to the proceedings as it imbues the tale with less hyperbole and flowery language. The journal entries gives the reader just the right amount of look into this man’s life instead of bombarding the reader with everything. Not everything’s explained in these journal entries, but enough clues were hinted at to keep the reader interested in reading more. From the beginning of the crisis (which has a timely feel of today’s current events) to the confusion of the situation spiralling out of control with our narrator as confused as the people in charge seem to be.
Day by Day Armageddon doesn’t lack for action and gory detail, but they seem to be more of affectations to the rest of the tale. Bourne concentrates more on the thoughts of his anonymous narrator. From how to plan for a siege to finding a way to distract the growing undead in his first refuge in order to rescue a neighbor who might be the only living person left the area. When the novel does finally have the narrator and the other survivors place themselves in danger in order to find more supplies or a better refuge, Bourne does a great job of keeping the pace of the story fast and tight. There’s not a lot of overly descriptive passages of the environment and its new undead in habitants. This minimalist style also lends itself to keeping the characters real. They behave with a rational and logical mind in trying to cope and deal with the worsening situation outside their refuge. Plans are thought out in advance and every precaution and angles factored in whatever decision they make in regards to their survival. In fact, Bourne’s characters seem to have either read Max Brook’s Zombie Survival Guide or at least something similar since they behaved and acted just how Brook’s guide said people need to if they’re to survive a coming zombie apocalypse.
If there’s a bone to pick with Day by Day Armageddon it would be the ending. To say that it ends in a cliffhanger would be an understatement. The last couple of journal entries became so action-packed that it succeeded in raising the adrenaline and making this reader want more of the same. But just when things really got cooking the book ends suddenly and with no resolution. The novel’s suppose to be just the first book in a larger series. Other than that little complaint, I thoroughly enjoyed this debut zombie novel from a new writer who seems to enjoy the zombie subgenre and knows how to handle it well. No running zombies for Mr. Bourne, though he’s hinted at radioactive zombies with abit more oomph than their less glowing undead brothers. Here’s to hoping Bourne keeps the sprinting undead to a minimum. Now where’s that second volume to this series.