Wednesday, March 2, 2016

We Are the Plague by Steve Kuhn

The undead plague has decimated the population, but pockets of survivors still remain.  A battered military search for survivors while scientists work frantically to control the spread.

When a rescue team on the west coast discovers a mutilated body holding a journal that documents one man's journey across the country, they begin transmitting the information to the mysterious colonel Lang.  They discover that the journal may not only contain valuable information, but also the cause, and a possible cure, for the epidemic.

Dext is a regular man in a very irregular situation.  The friends and enemies he meets in this new world will either make him a hero or a monster.  The clock is ticking and salvation is only a mile up the road...if he can keep running.  (taken from Amazon description)

This one is a little tough for me to review.  I first read this book over a year ago and was absolutely struck by Dext's sense of humor.  I had to pick it up and read it again before reviewing and then finishing the series.  Since my first read, the book has been edited.  Some of the initial humor that I fell in love with is no longer there.  That isn't to say that the editing changes weren't necessary.  I understand why they were made, but I miss the book I read the first time.

So we have this military crew going over the book that they found.  Instead of chapters, we have a compilation of entries in the journal as they decipher them.  Mixed in with that, we have mysterious letters between military personnel.  I like that it's set up this way because the story is unfolding to all of them at the same time it is me.  Not only that, but if I have to put the book down and get up to do something, it's really easy to remember where I was.  I can stop at the end of an entry without having to go a few more pages to the end of a chapter.

I previously commented on Dext's humor.  The thing is, he's a brilliant character.  He's your average Joe, stuck in a crazy world.  He's tossed amidst strangers and expected to bond with them almost immediately.  There's no choice if he wants to survive.  I can't even imagine the struggle he goes through trying to figure out relationships, but thankfully he gives me a bit of an insight into what he's thinking and feeling.  Not only that, he doesn't have the talents and skills of the people surrounding him.  So here, we have this average human, in a non-average setting, with average feelings of inadequacy and now to cope with life.  It's actually really fascinating.  But I digress!  Dext's humor is what really pulls me in to this book.  I like him.  He's a really likable fellow.  He's funny and bright.  Since he's writing in a journal, he doesn't have to worry about being politically correct.  He just writes things down how they happen and however he happens to be thinking it.  Given his character and the way he writes, everything just has this wonderfully natural flow.

I've seen several people liken this to The Walking Dead.  When I read the first copy, I didn't really see that.  I'm a Dead fan.  But in Dead, it's about the group.  Sure there are characters you enjoy, but they start as a group and keep building and strengthening that group.  Dext was too large of a character for it to be a group story.  Sure, I'm being critical.  That's my job.  However!  The second time reading through, I don't feel the same way.  This time it is much more about the group and their survival than revolving around Dext.  He's still the main character, but in the beginning at least, the focus on him is gone.  We still have his great character and humor, but it's tamed down by how much he talks about the others.

Now!  This is important!  This book is not for the faint of heart!  'Oh!  I love gore!'  Yeah...yeah...I hear you.  That's not what I'm talking about.  While this is certainly a gratifying and gruesome read, there's so much more to it.  Entry 7.  If you feel like you can read anything, read Entry 7.  I had to skip it the second time reading because I just couldn't handle it.  I'll admit, it hits me harder than it does most people, but the first time I read it, I spent hours crying.  The second time...I started skipping pages.  It takes a lot for me to be at that point.  It's not that it's gruesome or gross or bloody.  It's the fact that it's a real ...the word I want to use here isn't acceptable in polite society.  It really messes with our psyche.  Those of you that are anxious for the zombies to arrive...this could change your mind.

I suppose the best way to describe this book, for those of you Walking Dead fans, imagine that somewhere down the line, the military finds a journal that Glenn has been keeping.  Yep.  Glenn.  The pizza man.  Now!  Think of everything Glenn has endured so far...and then double the trauma.  That's what this book is.  A lovable character telling things how they are as they're happening.  What happens next?  I have no idea!  I need to stop writing this so I can pick up the next book and find out!

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