On June 6, 1941 we invaded Normandy; on June 5, 2005 the world ends. Musta missed it on the telly, and despite it ending in a whimper instead of a bang, I'm pretty sure something of that great a significance wouldn't have happened without me noticing. I'm sure there was significance in Simmons picking that date; it certainly wasn't because that's also my birthdate.
Anywho, Despite being young, Jimmy and Siobhan already have the demeanor of an old married couple trapped in a loveless marriage. Siobhan is depressed, and Jimmy is just a dick. They are driving down the road when Jimmy buys it, along with ninety-nine percent of the populace, including the animals, of Belfast. Unfortunately, people hate dying alone, so when Jimmy dies he manages, to Siobhan's great consternation, as he is the one driving, to take Siobhan with him. Too bad, I kinda liked her. Anyway, they drive their car into an upcoming train that is carrying teenagers Caroline "Caz" Donaldson and Tim Adamson.
We are then introduced over the next couple of chapters to three separate bunches of people. Congregating together, there are the survivors of the Belfast die out, a bunch that includes Caz, Tim, and drunken lout Sean Magee. There is also the nihilistic tattooist Star, who finds that her business has just taken a nose-dive, and who unfortunately, while looking colorful, turns out to be a rather colorless character. Belfast also gives us a seperate bunch led by the Preacher Man, a survivor who, astounded at still being alive, decides to start his own church, and preach and help other survivors.
Then there is the convoy lead by Roy Beggs and Mairead Burns who are traveling down the motorway and are about ten miles shy of Belfast. They are a couple by convenience, traveling together for safety's sake, and the trip is a contentious one, Beggs is an ex-soldier, brutal and racist, and Burns is militant IRA, and neither forgives and neither forgets, and both hate the other. They decide to camp out at an abandoned school only to find that somebody had already broke into it. Deciding to check things out Beggs and Burns find that the school's cleaner has gone to her final reward, but they also find Clare McAfee, a small child who is hiding at the school after her mother has died.
So much of the populace has died that there are barely any street gangs, the type that usually inhabit these type of novels, to worry about, so the characters feel free to freely move about, a mistake as we later learn. As the novel progresses we learn more and more about the Belfasters and their post apocalyptic existence. Then there is something that begins to puzzle some of Belfast's inhabitants, and it is the fact none of the bodies are rotting in the sun. None of the women's bodies that is, the men's get pretty ripe, but all the women's stay perfect.
The most interesting bunch though is the caravan people. The Belfasters unfortunately for the most part just exist, with some just content to sexing and drinking the novel away, although Caz and Tim develop nicely as characters. At the caravan however, things are starting to deteriorate as Beggs starts throwing his weight around, starting his own little authoritative and totalitarian cult, and Burns has just about had it, there is a death, undiscovered until too late, an attempted murder, then a mutiny as Burns decides to leave.
A street gang finally arrives on the scene at Belfast, there is a kidnapping, a rescue, Beggs arrives, and to make matters worse, the dead rise.
The trouble is that this is marketed as a zombie novel and it's not, not really. What it is, it is a novel about the immediate days following an unexplained apocalyptic event. The zombies don't even appear until near the end of the novel, in which we find that this is the first novel of a series. If you don't believe me, I think that the "Hang in there for `Drop Dead Gorgeous: Doll Parts'!" that is found in the acknowledgements is a clue.
Now this didn't really bother me, although it will bother others. In fact, although this is part of a series, the novel is pretty self-contained, and while those looking forward to some finger-licking good cannibal zombie action will probably be bored with the fairly slow moving first three quarters of this novel, I however, found it fairly interesting and I look forward to the next chapter, if there is one.
***Spoiler*** As to who the zombies are, here's a hint; it wouldn't be the first time women tried to destroy the world, check out "Xombies" by Walter Greatshell, "Ladies' Night" by Jack Ketchum or "Blood Fever" by Shelley Hyde (Kit Reed).
This novel has a great cover of the tattooed Star holding off a number of zombies with a bloody axe, and like most Permuted Press books, this is a sturdy trade paperback that would hold up to multiple re-readings, with a laminated cover that will hold up to much abuse, making it perfect for libraries if you could just get a library to stock it. I give it a four star rating because I have to, it's actually a three and a half star book, but I like these apocalyptic melodramas, others looking for fast-paced zombie action will no doubt grade it lower.