This book is a sequel to the author's first novel, Down the Road. In that book we are introduced to George Zaragosa, a school teacher who is coming to grips with a worldwide epidemic that has brought the dead back to life. He heads down the road to try and get to his family in another part of south Texas. This story is essentially a spin off, as it is attached to the first story by two characters, Red and Alex, who knew George but have since parted ways with him. As they are trying to make their way through this new and horrific world they discover that UN troops have essentially "invaded" Texas in a government authorized effort to suppress the zombie threat and to round up and cordon off the living human survivors in FEMA camps. The two escape the nefarious UN soldiers and head to Beeville, a small town that has thus far held its own against the encroaching doom of the undead. They warn the town folk of this new menace and our story takes us up to and including the conflict between the town that refuses to surrender and the UN Troops sent to either wipe them out or force them into their concentration camps. The story focuses mainly on the citizens of Beeville, telling their individual stories and tying them all together as they fight to survive.
It was my hope that the author would continue to improve in his story telling technique with this new novel and that this sequel would be a compelling follow up to his first book, which was not spectacular but had great promise. Unfortunately, I have to say that I was sadly disappointed with this effort. Regrettably, I feel that the author has regressed with this book and the story lacks any compelling feel to it. The characters, though quite human, feel somewhat wooden. We are given both their warts and positive side but I did not find myself rooting for any of them. Perhaps other readers found a way to latch on to these people but I found myself not really caring one way or another for the majority of them.
We are greeted with the same hardened viewpoint from the first book for virtually everyone with any sort of authority. Even the local police in Beeville, who are doing their best to keep their town safe, are quite willing to mow down survivors from other towns who are pleading with them to be allowed entry into the safe confines of their town. While we are given the sense that what they are doing is necessary, there is a feeling of emotional detachment as the police eliminate both the infected and uninfected with equal zeal. Even so, these folks are practically angels compared to even more powerful groups. We are reminded again and again that FEMA, Homeland Security, and the military are all just vicious and brutal thugs in their efforts to suppress both the undead and the living. Add to the mix in this book the UN Peacekeeping forces who have been dispatched to Texas to get rid of everyone who stands in their way. We are treated to a sociopath of a leader, Captain Phillip Carson, and his gleefully malignant foreign troops who rape and execute a bloody swath across south Texas, all under the guise of regaining control of our nation. The comparisons to Nazi Germany and the suppression of the Jews are agonizingly obvious here-people are loaded onto cattle cars, anyone who resists is dealt with swiftly and violently, and they all end up in concentration camps.
Of course the politicians we are made aware of in this book are all sanctioning these efforts. President Herbert M. Walker (huh?), who presided over the nation during the attacks of 9/11 has agreed to allow the UN Peacekeepers on our soil. Former President and now UN Secretary General Jefferson Williams (who?) is also there to speak up in favor of this move, along with Massachusetts Senator Ted Kinney (uh...) and New York Senator Carl Shumer (ohhh kay). The thinly veiled fake names was a bit off putting, especially since the author mentions at one point that one of the characters started becoming mistrustful of the government during the Clinton administration. Would that be Jefferson Williams or William Jefferson Clinton that this person is referring to? Sorry, I know this is nitpicky but again it was rather distracting to me.
I guess I found it really hard to believe that the U.S. Government, run by Herbert M. Walker or George Walker Bush, whichever, would authorize the United Nations to dispatch troops on U.S. soil when this is a global epidemic and I am guessing those troops would be better placed elsewhere. Instead it would be my guess that U.S. troops from around the globe would all be recalled to the home front instead. It's not like this administration is all buddy buddy with the U.N. these days.
Please understand that I am not saying that all of this is totally unfeasible or am I bashing political views. Certainly a crisis of this magnitude would bring out the ugliest inclinations in many people. But I also have to believe that somehow, in some way, that not every soldier (American or foreign), every person in a leadership role at the federal level, and basically much of the police force would be willing to discard every last bit of their ethics and humanity in a mad dash for power and utter and complete domination of everyone. Perhaps I am a bit naive in hoping for something different than what the author proposes here.
Beyond all of that, the story itself is simply not all that intriguing. There are no big shockers or surprises here. The zombies in this book are almost a completely secondary element and are rather dull. They do end up eating their fair share of the living but they seem to be more of a nuisance than anything else. The author tries to liven things up by putting a few small dream sequences in as well as some gratuitous sex but essentially we are just waiting for the final scene to unfold. Sadly, our town folks do nothing creative or interesting in an attempt to save themselves and the story ends with very little that shocks or surprises the reader.
Even with all the above said I am willing to admit that Mr. Ibarra has a strong voice and hopefully will continue to write and sharpen his skills. Although I did not necessarily enjoy this story he certainly can craft a tale and I am sure his efforts will continue to improve.