The Remaining isn’t just another zombie apocalypse novel. Actually, it is, but author D.J. Molles has tweaked his re-telling of a fate worse than death enough to make it fresh. I just read that sentence over. Really, there’s nothing fresh about a zombie apocalypse. Zombies are disgusting. Two distinct facts separate this story from the rest, however.
First of all, the time-frame is very compressed. After meeting Captain Lee Harden and covering a quiet month in his bunker, where we learn the how and the why of the apocalypse and his mission, Molles pushes the fast forward button. The greater part of the book, the ACTION, spans about three terrifying and tense days.
Debating with his conscience, Lee leaves the bunker a few days earlier than his detailed instructions dictate. From the minute he steps outside his front door, what can go wrong does go wrong. That’s the second difference. There are no cosy campfire scenes in this novel. Little reminiscence regarding what was. There is no spark of attraction between two world-weary survivors. Lee does begin to collect a merry band, but he’s missing several integral ‘types’. There’s no ex-con, no slut and no gun crazy guy or girl who constantly threatens everyone else’s safety.
There are marauding bands of hooligans with guns, however, and gobs and gobs of zombies. (Is there a collective pronoun for zombies?) The world outside Lee’s bunker is also suitably apocalyptic. In other words, the setting is just right.
Given more than three days to cope with the end of the world, Lee might have managed a passable cast of characters. I, for one, am glad he did not. With furious zombies battering at every door, the story had enough tension. Palpable tension! I ripped through the pages at a furious pace and finished the book in a single day.
Folks who read my reviews regularly know I love a good apocalypse. So, I enjoyed this book. I loved the pace and quite liked Captain Lee Harden. He’s a well-constructed character. He’s a soldier, through and through, and far from being an emotionless git. I felt his balance of rational thought and emotional involvement was just right. He spared a thought for the fate of the world and for those he cared about, but continued to put his mission first, even when it meant sacrificing himself. Very noble of him, I’d say. Without the recrimination and doubt, he’d have been a bit unreal. Instead, he’s just a guy, one specially chosen by the United States government for a very special task, one brought to life by Molles. My only complaint concerns the ending, which, like all the things that go wrong, I am not going to give away, suffice to say, it’s not an ending at all. It’s a cliff-hanger of the most bald variety. Nothing to cling to AT ALL!
‘The Remaining’ caught me up and carried me along well enough that I would have picked up the next book anyway. I want to continue adventuring with Lee. Still, I don’t like being told what to do and tend to take a dim view of books that don’t give me a whole story. Feels like an upsell. If I’d wanted fries with my order, I’d have ordered the damned fries to begin with. Actually, I kinda needed fries with this order. But while I think ‘The Remaining’ could have had a more satisfying conclusion, hinting at or even serving up the next adventure, I will read on. This wasn’t just another zombie apocalypse novel. It’s a well written, taut adventure novel with characters that definitely make a mark.
Written for SFCrowsnest.