Zombies are the good guys, right? That is, if they’re our zombies - the “revivors” of James Knapp’s State of Decay and its sequel, The Silent Army. “Technologically reanimated corpses,”
revivors “fight an endless war abroad.” If you control them, what better way to fight a war than with soldiers who never desert, are ever-vigilant and don’t even have to take restroom breaks? On the home front, they provide cheap labor and sexual thrills for anyone into that sort of thing. It’s also beneficial for the people who sign up to become revivors; they can increase their level of citizenship and move up tiers for their service after death. What can go wrong with a supposedly win/win system like that?
Plenty, or The Silent Army wouldn’t be much of a book and this wouldn’t be much of a series. Though The Silent Army has certain flaws, or at any rate areas that could
be improved upon, for the most part it is a fun, exciting read and a great sequel to State of Decay, if you’ve read it. The Silent Army can still be enjoyed without having read the first book, but it might take you awhile to get into it and sort out exactly who’s who, since Knapp doesn’t provide much background information. While too much rehash can drag a novel down, additional grounding here would be valuable.
In this outing, Agent Nico Wachalowski has to track down stolen nuclear devices before they’re set off and cities burn to the ground. Samuel Fawkes, the scientist who created the revivors, is back, and he has designed their circuitry so that he can control them after his own death. Faye Dasalia also returns, the woman Nico once loved who is now a revivor herself, along with Zoe Ott of the FBI and Calliope Flax, honorably discharged from the military and possessing a prosthetic revivor hand. Each woman has had an important role in Nico’s life, and here their motivations are explored in greater detail. It could be said that in this sequel, they are more interesting than Nico - especially Zoe Ott, who has strange powers over people, including making them forget they ever met her.
Samuel Fawkes fancies himself mankind’s savior, since he knows about the potential dangers and drawbacks of the revivor program and wants to put a stop to it. He’s behind the bombing at Concrete Falls, and he wants to awaken his own private revivor army to further his own agenda. What’s more, Nico learns something important from watching a video his friend and superior Sean made while locked in a bathroom as he waited for the door to be broken down and the people outside to kill him. Sean hurriedly writes on the mirror sentences he then wipes away, and the last message he gets to write before the lock is sliced off of the door with a cutter is:
Fawkes has the nukes. He was the buyer. The same buyer was behind the
first attack. Fawkes was behind the bombing of Concrete Falls.
There are different levels of revivors. All have yellow eyes and grayish skin with large black, but despite being ostensibly under the control of living people, the earlier production runs of the revivors have retained both their hair and the memories of their lifetimes. Being dead is just another stage in their existence for them - they can think and continue to build memories of whatever they do or say or see. Later-run revivors are bald and more animalistic. They don’t remember their previous existence, at least not to the extent that the earlier revivors do. These differences that developed because it was considered a drawback for the revivors to be too self-aware are some of what Fawkes dislikes about the direction the revivor program is going.
An interesting, exciting take on the traditional zombie novel about slow-paced, brain-eating, shambling walking corpses, The Silent Army reminds me of Jonathan Maberry’s excellent and gritty thriller Patient Zero. I recommend reading State of Decay before tackling The Silent Army, but if you like zombie stories and technological thrillers, check The Silent Army out. I anxiously await the third novel in the trilogy. Until then, while the other kids on the block sing “Silent Night,” be one of the cool ones reading The Silent Army.