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State of Decay Mass Market Paperback – Feb 2 2010

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Roc (Feb. 2 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451463102
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451463104
  • Product Dimensions: 17 x 10.6 x 2.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 181 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #786,057 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Swystun TOP 50 REVIEWER on Feb. 9 2011
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Kudos to Knapp for an original take on "zombies" with reanimated corpses used for military purposes. He seeds in corporate intrigue, a thriller-type plot, action-figure characters - and that is perhaps what lost me. It is such a melange of formats that it becomes a bit confused and rushed. Another observation is that he did not really spend enough time filling the reader in on the world where this all takes place (given similarities to BladeRunner - I had a hard time not associating the two). He cannot be faulted for enthusiasm and I am confident that the subsequent entries in the series will improve.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Pros: well imagined world with a 3 tier citizenship system, interesting characters, extremely complex plot, lots of plot twists, keeps you on your toes and guessing about what will happen next

Pro/Con (depending on your point of view): everything that happens is important, so pay close attention when you read

Cons: redundant repetition

If you don't like the think when you read, you won't like State of Decay. So much happens all at once, and all of it is important. It took me about a hundred pages or so to really get into the story. There are 4 character POVs, and each one requires figuring out their place in society, their current actions and trying to understand how they'll fit into the main story. Around the hundred page mark the stories start to converge, and you're well into an awesome science fiction ride.

The main story focuses on Nico Wachalowski. When we meet him, the FBI agent is busting a revivor smuggling ring. Revivors are people reanimated after their deaths to serve in the military in return for second class citizenship while alive. Wachalowski quickly realizes that smuggling is only the most visible aspect of a deeper conspiracy.

Faye Dasalia is a detective investigating the murders of first class citizens who somehow managed to reach that status without serving in the military, the condition for that level of citizenship.

Zoe Ott is a clairvoyant. She has trouble distinguishing reality from her visions. While being an alcoholic doesn't bring the relief she's looking for, she keeps trying. She also has a peculiar way of getting people to do what she asks.

Calliope Flax is a boxer. She's brutal in the ring with a foul mouth and no expectations of a better life.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By J. Packer on June 9 2010
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Since the product description is lacking an excerpt I better tell you what the book is about. The book is about revivors, which are "technologically reanimated corpses" and an FBI agent who is investigating incidents into revivors being on home soil. Revivors are normally used in war but do exist on the black market. Someone is smuggling war models of the revivors onto home soil and killing innocent people. The story actually includes four main characters that contribute equally to the story, even though all blurbs of the novel only talk about the FBI agent, Nico Wachalowski.

This book is a great read and is very entertaining. It makes a good quick read for a rainy afternoon.

The story is written in the first person from the perspective of four different characters. Knapp does a great job differentiating the narrative of each character (also, each section that is told by a different character is titled with their name and location). The way this is done keeps the action running right until the very end. Each character is very believable and is very consistent.

I would classify this novel as sci-fi mystery. The mystery drives the story. Clues come at a fast enough paced to keep you wanting more and will keep you from putting the book down. The sci-fi elements are small and are nothing novel, however, Knapp does an excellent job with their descriptions (not too in depth, not too short) and they are quite easy to imagine.

I could see some people reviewing this as not very intelligently written (there's not really any big words or anything) but I found that since the story is told in the first person and all the characters are average people that it added to the believability of the characters. Overall, it was a very fun read and I will definitely be reading Knapp's next novel!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 19 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A great sci-fi action thriller that women will love June 29 2011
By Sci-Fi-Girl - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I'm a woman who enjoys science fiction and action as much as any man. However, for me to really, really like a sci-fi movie or book, it has to have as good a story as it does special effects. I loved the movie "Aliens". I love to see a "kick-butt" female lead that isn't waiting for some macho male to come save her. I loved James Knapp's sci-fi action thriller book "State of Decay" and so did my "non-sci-fi-loving" mom. In "State of Decay" there are several strong women characters, all very different, that drive the story, and all are tied together via the main character Nico (who is a man, but what the heck). One woman character, named Cal, really kicks-butt. She's my favorite character. Another woman character, named Zoe, is emotionally disturbed and socially incompetent, but she has powerful psychic abilities that is key to the story. The third major woman character is Faye, who is a smart, workaholic police detective who has no time for family or friends (usually a man plays this character role). While there is some violence and gore, it is not that bad, especially not by today's action movie standards. James has a clear to-the-point writing style which I like, and the story's plot is multi-layered and smart. "State of Decay" is the first novel of the series, so the book's ending does not completely wrap everything up, although it is not a cliff hanger ending either. The second book in the series is "The Silent Army" and the third book is "Element Zero". All books are out and available in book stores or online. This is a great summer read for those who want a little sci-fi action in their lives. This book would also make a great movie.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
State of Okay. March 29 2010
By Leah - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
In my quest for zombie fiction, I was recommended State of Decay by James Knapp. Let me say this upfront: State of Decay is not a zombie book. It uses the concept of reanimation in a modern, technologically-oriented way to explore unsettling questions about identity: what makes us who we are? Is it the delicate spark of life that sustains our bodies that makes us human? Are we our memories? And what if we have reason to doubt those memories?

Science fiction has rehashed these ideas for decades, most memorably for me in films like Moon, The Matrix, Vanilla Sky, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, as well as in books like Permutation City by Greg Egan, or numerous works by Philip K. Dick such as We Can Remember It for You Wholesale, which was the basis for the film Total Recall.


Knapp's foray into this realm is not as sophisticated as the aforementioned works. He deals with rudimentary concepts of memory-as-self, but uses a clever plot device to expose the fragility of the human mind. This stuff is headier than terms like "zombie" can account for, so Knapp calls his reanimated undead "revivors." Revivors are people who are brought back to (computer-assisted) life after death, to serve as soldiers and domestic peacekeepers. In exchange for this, the revivor enjoys elevated citizenship while he is still a warm-blooded human: access to better jobs, social prestige, higher quality of life.

State of Decay begins when FBI Agent Nico Wachalowski busts up a ring of revivor traffickers who are illicitly reanimating bodies for use as mindless sex slaves, and to other exploitative ends. Only it seems the revivors he's found--along with a cache of weapons--may have some more nefarious purpose. On the other side of town, Detective Faye Dasalia is investigating a series of homicides, while telepath Zoe Ott sees visions of the dead--or soon-to-be-dead. These narrative threads are gradually drawn together to unveil disturbing connections and culminate in an explosive revelation.


Knapp has constructed a solid foundation for his revivors and their place in society. So it's puzzling that he then decided to toss in a trite and contrived Psychic Powers (TM) arc on top of it. As the book draws to a close, it becomes clear how the psychic aspect fits in to the greater narrative, and this is thankfully satisfying and important to the underlying conflict--but the psychic powers are never explained, despite plot indications that they should be better understood. The psychic POV character, Zoe, is sympathetic and believable, but gives merely cursory reference to her past. Knapp has left room for himself to explore this in the implied sequel, but I felt it should have been addressed more thoroughly in the first book.

Aside from plot issues, the action is rapid and engaging, and the prose, if simple, is lucid. Characterization is where Knapp stumbles. Psychic and alcoholic loser Zoe is his strongest character: flawed, unrepentant, emotional, sympathetic. She is the beating heart that pumps blood through the story. But other characters display markedly less dimensionality, particularly in the weak and needless subplot consisting of a cliché-ridden bad-girl female boxer and the mysterious youth who bails her out of jail. Knapp could have dropped this entire thread, cardboard cutout characters and all, to general improvement.

While there are some tidy plot twists, they are too clearly telegraphed and predictable. To Knapp's credit, even though you'll guess where the plot is going long before it gets there, he keeps the journey lively with relentless action. But he has a tendency, most noticeable in the middle third of the book, to resort to dialogue to move the exposition-heavy action forward--a common problem with genre fiction.


The main problem with State of Decay is that the book can't decide if it's a whodunnit, an FBI investigative thriller, a psychic drama, or (insert genre cliché here)--nor can it decide on being a cohesive synthesis of its parts. FBI Agent Nico's thread is the most prominent, incorporating elements of the whodunnit and psychic subplots. But those subplots in turn suffer from lack of attention and development, particularly the serial killer plot.

Much ado is made about Detective Dasalia's gradual breakdown as she investigates the murders, but it resolves in an unsatisfying way: she's just another plot device. Because her character was so one-dimensional and event-driven, I wished there had been fewer POV chapters from her, so that I wouldn't feel cheated that I didn't care about her when I obviously was meant to.


James Knapp's State of Decay is a rapid-fire sci-fi thriller with a clever premise, undermined by thin characterization and predictability. It poses Big Questions about the self and the relationship between memory and identity, but doesn't pursue them seriously. The book is at its best when it makes us care about the marginalized losers of society: washed-up alcoholic psychics and exploited undead ex-humans alike.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A very good read! Looking forward to reading the next one... Jan. 6 2011
By Harry Dresden - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
To James Knapp: I really enjoyed your story. Very refreshing. I know it's almost impossible to come up with new and creative ideas nowadays but you've managed it extremely well. After finishing a book, it always makes me happy to be left looking forward to the next book in the continuing story. Can't wait to read "The Silent Army".

To Everyone Else: This book is well worth the time and money. The other 5 star reviewers covered all the main points so I won't rehash them here. This is not a zombie book even though it deals with the walking dead. Not sure about the other lower rated reviews. If you're not a science fiction fan, then you probably won't like this book. Happy reading.
7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Science Fiction-not Zombie fiction March 4 2010
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
State of Decay is an impressive debut novel with interesting concepts and some good hard science fiction. I expected a Modern Gothic novel. What I got was a different kind of science fiction justification for using "revivors". Revivors are people who have, mostly, volunteered to be brought back to improve their standing in life. If you volunteer as a revivor it gets you a shot at moving up in class. Revivors get used for a lot of different things, but mostly as biological robot soldiers to serve in a series of unending wars. The author uses the point of view of four different first person narratives to tell the story. I was expecting Zombies and instead I got Science Fiction, and that was a good thing.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Interesting read. June 3 2013
By writerwannabe - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition
This book was interesting. It gives a different take on zombies, though in a way they didn't really seem like zombies; in the book, they're called "revivors," which are reanimated bodies with electronic parts that makes them obey commands. People in this dystopian society can volunteer to become revivors after their deaths in exchange for a better life. These are definitely not your "eat your brains" zombies.

I thought the writing was great. there are 4 POVs all told in first-person; there are about 3 POVs per chapter. I liked how the Knapp developed the characters, even though there were four vying for air-time in a novel that's less than 400 pages in paperback. I loved how all the plots converged and began to intertwine about 1/3 of the way through the book. Each POV character is handling their own plot and problems and nothing is rushed with any of the plots.

The problems I had was with the dialogue. It was hard to follow sometimes without proper attribution, so I became confused many times about who was talking.

Knapp did a good job with the climax and continuously raising the stakes for the main POV character, Nico. I think the author is great plotting and State of Decay has some of the best plotting I've read in a book. I liked the intricate plots and storylines and how they all came together.

My least favorite character was Caliope Flax and my favorite character was Zoe Ott. There was a weird bit of almost-romance between Nico and one of the other POV characters that would have made me vomit had it actually happened. I just can't see Nico with any of these characters except the one he actually had a relationship with.

But, despite all of this, I can't say that I'm tempted to read the sequel. I'd probably recommend this book to anyone who wants a different take on zombies. I might change my mind later about reading the sequel because something keeps gnawing at the back of mind about this book and what happens next, but I"m just not compelled at the moment to want to read more.

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