Roads Less Traveled: The Plan tells the story of Kasey, a young woman living in the mountains of West Virginia, and a group of students from Pennsylvania coping with the initial days of the zombie apocalypse. Kasey and Ben, one of the students, have been corresponding over the internet for years, though they've never met face to face. While there are no real details as to how they stumbled onto one another, it isn't difficult to surmise that they connected via one message board or another that was discussing the best ways to survive a zombie apocalypse. This story is built for the zombie fan who has been prepared for the apocalypse, or at least talked about being prepared for it, for years. You see, Kasey and Ben had a plan set up for when things fell apart and the zombies rose up. Of course, it was all talk until the undead became a reality. Now they have to put their plan into action, which entails Ben making his way down to West Virginia to Kasey while she prepares her very remote home as a holdout against a world filled with the undead. Ben has some friends coming along with him-other students at the college he's at, foremost among them being Jake, who is another zombie fan who apparently has a plan of his own. Begrudgingly, Kasey agrees to let them morph their plans together, and make the journey to Kasey's home, fighting through minefields of the staggering undead shambling rampant through Pennsylvania and West Virginia. A large chunk of the story is taken up with the tale of Ben's journey south, along with a side story of another friend of Kasey's who lives in Washington DC...Mia and Kasey speak early on in the book over the phone, and they both assume Mia is as good as dead given the massive population where she lives. But the story of her attempt at survival was one of the more interesting parts of the book for me-exciting and heartbreaking at the same time.
As a zombie fan, I need to make it clear that this story does not break new ground. The zombies are traditional Romero zombies. As a zombie author, I have no problem with there being no new ground broken as far as the undead are concerned. There is plenty of un-life still left in a tale filled with the slow, dragging, moaning undead. The key is telling a story that has characters that are compelling and make you want to root for them...or hate them,. Either way, they have to keep you intrigued.
I felt that Kasey was a well fleshed out character. She is strong, prepared, and takes on a leadership role among this newly formed group of survivors with relative ease. My second favorite character had to be Nancy, who while playing a minor role just seemed appealing-she is Jake's grandmother, and the strength she exhibits in this story is not all on the surface. Kasey may be the leader, but Nancy is the glue keeping the group together. I wasn't as fond of Ben, who didn't seem nearly as fully developed given his key role in the story. He and his new found girlfriend become background noise for the bulk of the story, with a few points where they stand out for short periods of time, at most. Jake is far more complex a character, and outshines Ben from the very beginning. He was sort of an anomaly in a lot of ways, making him a unique. He is diminutive in stature, but plays the role of a bad ass, a leader, but he defers with no complaint to Kasey, and he is a psycho, though only when necessary. I am not sure I particularly like Jake, though he grew on me as the story progressed.
The writing is solid in this book and I had no issues with it, though I do have to admit switching from first person (with Kasey) to third person, with everyone else, isn't my favorite way to go. It isn't a major complaint, though at one point in the story, the two styles were intermingled. Kasey is in a scene, and speaking in first person, and yet she is not right next to some of the other characters, but somehow, she is still narrating about them. Again, this is just a quibble. I just tend to prefer it when an author keep the perspective consistent throughout a story.
Roads Less Traveled: The Plan once again does not break new ground, and the plan, though mentioned early on, really has no elements to it that are different than most of the other survivor's plans I have seen in other zompoc tales. It just is something that moves the story along, giving the characters a purpose for doing what they need to do. For me, the real key to this story is that the characters, in particular Kasey and Jake, are interesting, and emotionally they seemed real. There are no superheroes here, just normal people struggling to stay alive in the face of both the undead hordes and the very dangerous living that tend to create even worse problems for the main characters.
I look forward to checking out the next book in this trilogy-the author has me intrigued.