Reviewed by Scott A. Johnson
Written by Rhiannon Frater
Published by Createspace
As a general guideline, we here at Dread Central usually shy away from books that are self-published. The reason behind it is simple: Most self-published books are crap, and writing an honest review of one calling it such is just an invitation for a shitstorm of flame wars and hard feelings. But there are exceptions that prove the rule. Occasionally, I run across a self-published title that blows me away with its originality and story, and because it’s my job to bring you the best in horror, I feel compelled to write about it. Not to mention that my curiosity level goes way up when I find out that this book just got optioned to be turned into a television series, which is the case with Rhiannon Frater’s As the World Dies trilogy.
The first in this series opens up with the disturbing image of a zombified toddler’s fingers reaching under a door toward his horrified and heartbroken mother. That right there caught me. It follows the mother, Jenni, as suburbia is turned into zombie hell. Jenni gets rescued by Katie, a lesbian whose wife also was turned, and the two of them scoot down the road looking for shelter in a world gone mad. By now, images of Thelma and Louise are probably popping into your head, and you’d be justified in making such a comparison, but you’d also be wrong. These aren’t a pair of pistol-packing man-haters who drive down the road looking to blow everything with a penis off the face of the earth.
What makes Frater’s book so fascinating is the development of her characters. Sure, one’s gay and the other isn’t, sure they’re women, sure they could easily be thrown into every stereotype known to mankind, but they’re not. The characters avoid the usual devices and move with carefully thought out and realistic emotion. Jenni slowly slips from traumatized fear to a sort of post-traumatic stress disorder while Katie tries to keep her own sanity in check. They don’t read like paper characters, but read more like strong (read: intelligent) women who are taken out of their element and plopped down into something that no one of any gender could easily deal with.
Frater’s work does suffer from a few mechanical problems like an overabundance of adverbs and very passive phrasing. But the human element of the story is such that the reader can easily forgive, and at many times not notice, the elements that come with seasoning. What readers will see here is a writer that will, undoubtedly, improve with each successive novel that comes out, and a book in which the story and the characters will make a lasting impression. The points of view of the characters help to paint a vivid and dismal world with a few bright spots and a few that are just pitch black. She combines raw emotion with commentary things that are both tragedies and truly tragic. In all, I’d say As the World Dies: The First Days is a solid beginning, and a great introduction to an imaginative new voice. I’m looking forward to the other two books in the series.
4 out of 5
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