Monday, March 10, 2014

'The Breadwinner' (Book Review)

It should come as no surprise that Florida will be the epicenter of the zombie apocalypse.

The "Sunshine State" serves as the central location of The Breadwinner, the first in a trilogy of undead horror novels by author Stevie Kopas. It's a fast-paced read set only a few days (and weeks) after a massive and mysterious catastrophe that rips through the east coast causing the dead to rise and chow down on the living. To clear things up right away, these are "fast zombies". Fast, scary, shrieking zombies that tear people limb from limb. Although they apparently slow down a little once they have been rotting for a while...

The story opens in the remains of upscale shore community Franklin Woods, introducing us to ex-lawyer Samson. He lives with his awful, materialistic wife Moira and their two kids, and has become the sole provider to keep them afloat while the world falls apart. On a routine expedition into town for supplies Samson runs across a teenage girl named Veronica, and the story shifts focus via flashbacks into "the city" (I assume Tallahassee) to detail origins of other characters in the book.

Zombie novels have become insanely popular in the last few years on the heels of The Walking Dead, and it's difficult to separate one from another. The Breadwinner is a standout for a few reasons. Kopas wears her main idea on her sleeve. This is a story about "the caring" and "the cared for". Each main character's motive revolves around the people that they feel obligated to look out for and defend, even if it's not their choice. This immediately helped me like them, sympathize, and want them to succeed. Like I said before, this is a very quick book. A lot gets thrown at these people in roughly 150 pages, which doesn't leave much space for in-depth character development. However, unlike so many other zombie novels The Breadwinner actually made me care whether or not the heroes became corpse lunches.

Speaking of the zombies, holy crap they are brutal in this book. The author has a strength for written detail, and it shines when describing both the newly shattered Floridian landscape and the ferocious battles with the undead hordes. The freshly re-animated don't shamble around looking to bite people. They run screaming through the streets to the point of fumbling over themselves to find food. Once they do we're treated to descriptions of people being unmercifully ripped to shreds. It's a gory tale and makes each encounter with "the Eaters" a tense moment.

I absolutely recommend The Breadwinner to any horror fan, especially zombie aficionados. It's a no-nonsense book that you can easily finish in a weekend and will keep your attention the entire time. While it falls into some familiar traps and tropes you'll see within the genre, overall it's a cut (or bite) above thanks to the excellent pacing, exposition and fantastic detail. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the trilogy.

Grade: A

Reviewed on Kindle. 139 pages.

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