Reviewed by Scott A. Johnson
Written by Carnell
Published by ZED Presents
What happens when the inevitable zombie apocalypse finally does arrive? Does the world bow down to the masses of shambling dead? Do we run out with flame-throwers and chainsaw-bladed weed-whackers to take care of the undead horde? Well, according to Carnell, we do to them what we do to every other annoying person in the world: We put them on television for our entertainment. In this version, though, instead of putting nine of them in a single apartment for hilarity and hijinx, they’re thrown into the brutal world of zombie pit fighting. Against live people.
No Flesh Shall Be Spared is an impressive debut novel from Carnell that shows surprising depth and character development. He also shows the ability to repulse and fascinate in the same keystroke. The first chapter, “Motherhood,” which takes place before the whole world has gone to hell in a handbasket, is a slice of the final day of a drug-addled woman who accidentally kills her newborn baby by smothering it with her boobs while absent-mindedly trying to breastfeed it. Of course, being that it’s the zombie apocalypse, the baby comes back to “life” and bites the woman’s nipple off and promptly kills her. That pretty much sets the tone here: grim, gritty, and graphic.
No Flesh Shall Be Spared is really the story of Cleese, a tough-talking guy who has a knack for kicking the holy hell out of the undead. Spotted by a producer, Cleese is recruited for the zombie pit fights. He gets paired up with a pit veteran, Monk, who proceeds to refine his barbaric style and teach him how to not only destroy zombies, but also to entertain the crowds. Really, the zombies are background, incidental to the general plot of human interaction and what we turn into when things really go to pot.
Carnell has an interesting writing style, one part Lansdale, one part King, with just a splash of Dashiell Hammett thrown in for good measure. His chapters flow nicely and build in all the right places. As far as tension, his plot moves at a pace that varies from slow and plodding to butt-puckeringly tense in just the space of a few pages. While the slow bits could be trimmed without losing anything, the other parts are necessary, if for no other reason than to see how tightly the reader can grip the cover.
While this may be the debut novel of Carnell, this certainly isn’t his first rodeo. He functions as the head writer for Carpe Noctem magazine and is a contributing writer for both Dread Central and Fangoria. With this new step in the literary world, one can only imagine what will come next from him. If he improves with his next book, Carnell will be a literary force to be reckoned with.
4 out of 5
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