The argument has been made that zombies do not make for good book. While zombie films have witnessed a renaissance of sorts in the last five years, and zombie-themed comic books are becoming award-winning series (Walking Dead by Image Comics), it’s hard to argue that zombies warrant their own sub-category within the horror genre of fiction. In part, it’s because zombies sustain an aural and visual appeal that can be hard to recreate in a book. They’re one of the few instances where readers need a jumpstart from some other medium. Given that over forty zombie movies have been released in the last five years, the cultural understanding of the average citizen can conceivably conceptualize just what a zombie is and isn’t. So Wellington puts to work this cultural concept and delivers an intense zombie novels that will leave readers drooling (much like a zombie) for the next book in this trilogy (forthcoming Zombie Nation).
Several months have passed since the dead have begun returning from the dead. Humanity has survived, barely. Various outposts still manage to fight off the zombies, but the humans are fighting a losing battle. When Dekalb finds himself on a ship pulling into New York City Harbor, he hopes he will return to save his daughter, Sarah, who is held hostage by the leader of the Free Women’s Republic in Africa. She sent Dekalb to New York with some of her soldiers to find AIDS medicine. As a former U.N. weapons inspector, Dekalb is an intelligent negotiator, which will come in handy as they meet some of the living survivors of the ruined city.
Once in New York, they endlessly search for the places where they might find the medicine, fighting off zombie hordes and internal dissent along the way. But when they meet Gary, an intelligent zombie who can carry on conversations and supposedly control his appetite (referred to as “homo-mortis”), their world irrevocably changes; a few of them will survive the repercussions of their encounter.
Wellington keeps the action coming and effectively makes his zombies feel threatening on many different levels, particularly as he goes more into the “why” and the “how” zombies operate. Strangely, he switches between the first-person narrative of Dekalb and third-person narration, which usually looks into what the zombies and other characters are doing. It adequately works but one wonders if some other way of managing the narrative could have been created. Where Wellington does hit the mark is with his understanding of a post-zombie world, emphasizing the point that Third World and war-torn countries are most likely to be the most resilient against such a festering attack.
Monster Island isn’t so much scary as it is intense, fast-paced, and enjoyable. Dekalb proves a typical “everyman” in that he is easily likeable and relatable. Wellington spins a tale quickly pulls in readers and keeps them waiting for the next dosage of zombies.