I’m going to write an unapologetic review for an unapologetic novel, namely David Andrew Wright’s The Hanging Tree.
A story that’s not afraid to show you what people might resort to when all hope is lost; how do people cope? How does it change people? Zombie novels aren’t supposed to be about zombies… it’s about people coping with personal crisis. This is a book about flawed people. You won’t find Iron Man in the pages of The Hanging Tree—it’s as if we’re all waiting for someone to save us, someone else to do something about our plight…
The Hanging Tree: A Zombie Novel by David Andrew Wright starts off a bit slowly, with the deranged ramblings of a man who’s clearly not in tune with today’s sense of morality, because that world is gone. That’s an important concept in apocalyptic fiction—society is gone, so what’re people really like? What can they become? Our story begins with the man who represents a moral apocalypse and a subconscious search for its rebirth. The protagonist in this story is supposed to look for a glimmer of hope, of humanity, because he’s been isolated from society; how many people shut down when they decide they don’t want to be part of something they dedicated their identity to? Here’s a character who has nothing; he’s barely human because he’s forgotten what it means. The purpose behind this novel should be clear from the first chapter: this is a book in which a man is so damaged by his loss that he’s become a monster to rationalize why he destroy monsters, until he encounters others who aren’t any different than him.
The Hanging Tree has romance, and it has guns. In fact, the author provides a neat display of the weapons involved at the end of the book as if they were the cast on stage for a final ovation; the book makes jest of our “carefully-ordered world” and its procedures, so I think the guns could be moved to the front of the book. Everyone seems to enjoy talking about the gun controversy; are they villains or heroes? Do they save or do they kill? The reader is supposed to explore, and decide. There is some political satire if you’re interested, but it’s not pushed to the forefront.
The author wasn’t trying to use his book to get across a point. I was able to reflect upon what I learned about our world from reading this book. When a book teaches me something new, I decide that it’s worth sharing with the world.
There are moments of humanity and humor, so bright in the middle of the mire that surrounds these people. As fruitless as their situation might seem, the characters aren’t interested in giving up. They have different methods of coping. I hate to think our PG-13 world would be offended by drug use in a book, considering that you can turn on Fox or any other television station and see it; Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill appear in a lot of films that feature marijuana, and their movies do quite well. I mention this because I think the author did a great job of showcasing how individual people might handle a situation, rather than a bunch of walking video game archetypes shooting things. Drugs exist, and so does alcohol. The characters in this novel are homeless; they’ve been displaced and they’re looking for a place to fight the oncoming threat, the inevitable confrontation that provides the backdrop for *SEMI-SPOILER* an intense action scene. The things that once defined these people are dead, and many of them feel dead. You get the picture.
Once the cast is introduced, the book moves swiftly and leaves you wanting more. The ending is conclusive; I didn’t feel cheated because the story was finished, but I can see a sequel providing an opportunity to explore how much more the author can reveal; the world he creates seems surreal but very close, proof that the author used the isolation concept to its fullest. The Hanging Tree, Volume 1 of the Zed Files Trilogy, is a story about personal survival horror; you’ll get your fair share of gore, bullets, and kills. Some of the zombie kills in this book were humorous and creative. For anyone needing an explosion to occur within a story, you’re rewarded. Most importantly, the characters grow. The characters dictated the plot in this story, and it shows. The author brings them to life and gives you hope that these people can learn how to be decent to one another.
The characters in The Hanging Tree don’t seem redeemable, or even worth cheering for, on the surface. The author introduces them and allows you to make your own judgments. You care about these characters because they’re trying to survive together in a way that makes more sense than anything I’ve seen this side of The Walking Dead. These characters weren’t necessarily rich or poor in their previous lives; they have only souls—they want to give each other a chance. There’s certainly a lot of paranoia in this book, but I didn’t need the ‘traitor’ concept or the ‘rape’ idea thrown in, because these people tried. It was all they had. The author’s positive message about people who’re willing to trust one another contrasts neatly with its grim reality.
Buy The Hanging Tree: A Zombie Novel on Amazon!