I have a seriously unhealthy obsession with the living dead. No really. I literally eat, sleep and dream zombies. As I walk from the subway station to my office, surrounded by mobs of people, I think: "if the zombie apocalypse was to happen right now and the infected started reanimating--where would I go? how would I escape?" I look around the train station for every possible exit route and mentally store it in my noggin for future reference. It's probably borderline "psychotic breakdown" and maybe I should seek psychiatric help, but we'll talk about that later.
Although, as much as I love zombies, I don't think I'd enjoy being reanimated as one. Maybe it's just me, but I don't see the fun factor in being a living, rotting corpse that shambles around mindlessly--attacking your family, friends and... the postman to feed your brain addiction. It doesn't matter how much I want to be one for Halloween. And if you come back as anything short of the super zombies in Return of the Living Dead, you're easy pickings for thrill-seeking zombie hunters.
However, there is one loophole in my logic. When the zombie apocalypse happens and by some unfortunately circumstance I do become a zombie, I hope that I at least reanimate as a "higher functioning" zombie, like some of the zombies in Dead Mann Walking, a new urban fantasy series by Stefan Petrucha.
The first book in the Hessius Mann series focuses on former police detective Hessius "Hess" Mann. Hess was executed for the murder of his wife, a murder he isn't quite sure he actually committed. Hell, the courts aren't even sure if he did it or not, which is why they had ChemBet, a corporation testing reanimation on humans, bring him back from the dead. The good thing, it worked and Hess is once again amongst the living. The bad thing, Hess is now a zombie, or a chak, as they're known throughout the novel.
Hess gets a case from William Turgeon who wants him to find a chak named Frank Boyle. According to William, Boyle's father died recently and he wants to ensure that the money goes to Frank and Frank alone. None of the money is left to Frank's siblings. Hess takes the case but it's not without its risks. He and Turgeon track Frank and his adopted son, Ashby, to a zombie town but they are ambushed by hakkers, kids that get their kicks tormenting zombies.
When the violence gets too intense and the zombies' plans to evade the hakkers don't work, it looks like they might not make it out; but the police come to save Turgeon since he is a "liveblood" or human. Hess finally parts ways with Turgeon, Frank and Ashby, thinking that the case is solved. But the mystery's only beginning for Hess when the local news reports that Frank's remains have been scattered across the desert in a manner similar to another zombie who was found a few weeks earlier. In both instances the zombies were missing their heads.
Now, Hess must race to find out who is really behind the chak murders before he's next.
I was easily swept away into this zombie novel because it is a completely different take on the urban fantasy genre.
Petrucha also experiments with the idea of what happens to a zombie's soul after it is dismembered. It takes a lot to detach a chak's soul from its body. Even if the body is completely dismembered the heads still talk and after one chak's flesh is melted away it continues to exist as a talking skeleton.
I also love how the world building in this novel. The towns where the Chaks live have a gritty and desolate feeling to them. Chaks are second class citizens and treated as such. I felt bad for them since they seemed to be genuinely peaceful creatures, trying to make something of their lives, after their families deserted them and not even the homeless or the drug addicts will have anything to do with them.
Hess' is also very tongue-in-cheek and it was very easy for me to identify with him. He says funny things and he's cynical! All the time! Maybe it's because I'm typically cynical minded by nature, but I loved the witty writing style and quickly found myself liking Hess.
There is nonstop action and suspense all the way to the end as I kept trying to guess who the zombie killer was. Every time I thought I had it figured out I was proved wrong. I was surprised up until the very last page.
I also liked the fact that there is no romance in this novel. I like romance in a novel when the focus is small, but honestly I would rather read books where vicious monsters attack and everyone runs around like a bunch of crazy people until the hero or heroine arrives. My ideal novel also has lots of gore and action sequences thrown in for good measure.
A lot of urban fantasy I wouldn't recommend to my guy friends because even an inkling of romance in a novel is like instant death for them. Dead Mann Walking is a guy's book through and through.
Honestly, I could write an entire novel about what I loved about this novel. One thing for certain is that I'm looking forward to reading the next book.
Dead Mann Walking is the first novel in Stefan Petrucha's Hessius Mann series. More details on the second book avaliable on Petrucha's website.