Published by Severed Press
It seems like there’s no escaping zombie fiction these days. Books, movies, television, video games – there’s absolutely zero shortage of gut-munching mayhem for fans of the shambling undead. Because of this, it requires a truly fresh take to stand distinguished in a crowded subgenre. That’s where Brian Pinkerton’s How I Started the Apocalypse steps in and delivers.
Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I’ll admit that this book was published by Severed Press, the same folks who recently published my own novel. But I had purchased this book on my Kindle Fire simply because the premise intrigued me and I always try and support the small genre presses when I can. Having enjoyed Brian Pinkerton’s novel Vengeance several years ago, I was looking forward to seeing what else he’d do. And it’s really because I had a quite a bit of fun with this that I felt compelled to deliver a review.
How I Started the Apocalypse is a more personal zombie story than any I’ve read/seen lately. It works with the premise that the government has been trying to develop ultra-intelligent zombies for wartime scenarios (think Bub from Day of the Dead, times ten). This is where our hero, Chaz, factors in. He awakens in a government facility only to discover he’s dead. And while he decays like an average zombie and hungers for flesh with the best of them, he’s retained all of his humanity and intelligence. Chaz escapes custody and finds himself on a personal odyssey to put his life’s unfinished business right, and that’s where things get really complicated.
This is a brisk novel, quickly paced and with a good sense of humor throughout (there’s a moment rivaling Hannibal’s infamous dinner scene that you’ll read while wearing an ear-to-ear grin). I don’t want to spoil the surprises, except to say nothing works according to Chaz’s plan. This keeps the story interesting, especially once he discovers his life wasn’t as perfect as he thought it was. Pinkerton’s Chaz is a sympathetic hero in that his only real design is to be a strong, upstanding family man. And that normalcy becomes a pipe dream as he discovers his only remaining lot in life is that of an infectious ghoul. It gives the story a nicely bittersweet tone: fun, gruesome stuff that’s tinged with just enough drama to have emotional resonance.
It’s also nifty to see a story unfold almost entirely from a zombie’s perspective. This ensures a narrative without much down time, as Pinkerton rarely gives his antihero a chance to rest. How I Started the Apocalypse feels like a zombie version of The Fugitive – a relentless chase story interspersed with personal vignettes that tell us everything we need to know about our character. And by the time our resident zombie begins taking revenge against some of those who wronged him, this becomes a really macabre and satisfying slice of horror fiction.
How I Started the Apocalypse is the kind of book you’ll tear through in one sitting. While genre movies seem content to repackage the same tired zombie premises, fiction writers seem to be the guys interested in finding new and interesting ways to keep the subgenre fresh. I recommend this to anyone who loves a good zombie yarn but has begun to feel like that blood-soaked well has gone dry. It hasn’t, and guys like Brian Pinkerton seem determined to prove it.
4 out of 5