Review: ‘Life After: The Arising’, A Zombie Novel By Bryan Way
Life After: The Arising tells the story of Jeff Grey and his experiences during the first few days of the zombie apocalypse. When the dead rise up his hometown suburb of Philadelphia, Jeff seems to be the only person prepared to do what it will take to survive.
Jeff is a college freshman who has returned home to visit his girlfriend who is performing in a high school band competition. He is a band geek himself as well as a zombie fanatic who has written several stories about the undead and knows about all about the ‘rules’ of dealing with the living dead. So when corpses start crawling out of a nearby cemetery during the band competition, he is able to react to the threat immediately. Taking charge, he leads a handful of terrified survivors, including his girlfriend Julia, into a building on campus while the rest of the people at the school are torn to pieces on the football field and in the stands.
Jeff becomes a somewhat reluctant leader when those he has saved look to him for guidance since he seems to know what he is doing. Jeff does indeed know a lot about zombies, but he isn’t some sort of survivalist, just a freshman college student who’s read a some books and watched a few movies about the undead. Fortunately for him, an old high school friend who is in the National Guard arrives on the scene a day or so later and takes on a leadership role to help keep the survivors alive.
The story of Life After: The Arising takes place over a period of about ten days with the characters migrating to different hiding spots in their suburban environment in an effort to escape the constant barrage of corpses trying to hunt them down. The zombies are a mix of fast and slow moving based on how long they have been dead as well as how much damage they’ve suffered. The story is told in first person present tense, though thankfully not in a journal format, which has been a bit overused in the zompoc genre.
The action in the tale is solid, with the sequences surrounding the attacks by the undead moving at a fast clip. The gore is effective, though not over the top. The characters are, for the most part, solidly fleshed out. Of course, this is a story of one man’s journey above and beyond all else-this is Jeff’s tale, and it is through him that we allowed to understand the other characters and the world in which they must survive. As such, whether the reader enjoys this tale or not will likely hinge on what they think of Jeff and how he sees the world through his eyes…which see the world as a zombie obsessed fan who knows the drill when it comes to the undead and how to deal with them, or at least so he believes.
Though the pacing of Life After: The Arising is solid when there are zombies on the page, it is a not as even when there are only other humans interacting with Jeff. He spends a bit more time than necessary elaborating on his loving relationship with Julia. Though much of the arguments and discussions with other survivors are pertinent and critical to developing a better understanding of the other characters, there are occasions where things drag. An example is when several of the characters get into a debate about God and religion that felt unnecessary to the plot.
The dialog, for the most part, is snappy and moves things along. It wasn’t overly dramatic or overbearing and felt natural for the characters who were speaking it. A minor editing critique was the fact that in a lot of conversations in the book didn’t make it immediately apparent who was speaking what line. Tossing in a few more ‘I said’ or ‘Julia replied’ would solve that little issue.
Overall, Life After: The Arising is a solid freshman writing entry by Bryan Way. He shows a great deal of promise as a new voice in the zombie genre and I look forward to checking out the next installment in this saga.