Welcome back to the Spooky Book Club! As the great spooktacular season is drawing to a close, it’s important to remember the sub-genres of horror that get this interest brewing in hearts and minds year after year. Like it or not, zombie based fiction has been the most notable contributor to the genre in all mediums and art forms in the 21st century. But what exactly are the key ingredients that make for a good zombie thriller? Is it the ghoulish horror of the undead? The survival factor of those still fighting for their lives? Or is it perhaps the look at the human experience to what we become as a society when faced with the end game of combating the rotting husks of our former selves? Today’s book takes a fair sample from all three of these, so maybe we’ll get a great example of where to go in the next era of undead horror. I hope you’ve already bought some good candy and have your most tasteful costume all picked out, because it’s the Halloween week Book Club y’all!
The Death Doll by Brian P White is a horror survival thriller, tackling the subject of zombies. Being a “zombie” is fairly vague as sometimes it’s a disease, other times it’s the literal dead being brought back requiring a strange “double kill” from the survivors, lest they become part of the horde. For this one it appears to be caused by disease, but the crisis isn’t nearly as important as the life of the survivors. We join the story almost in a sense of “in progress” as a group of survivors that are fighting the face-munchers and are coming perilously close to losing everything they have. Just in the nick of time, the foes are cut down by a curiously sexy (if not creepy) badass warrior of a woman wielding an absolute peacemaker of a sword. The newly rescued group feel secure as they’re escorted to shelter by the strange woman and her armed associates. After all, with the blood curdling stories of the “Death Doll” possibly being somewhere in this area, no one is going to be taking any risks. Before the group can feel safe, guns are drawn as they are forced into an “isolation” by this surprisingly sophisticated band of survivors for the next three days. Saved or endangered, staying in this community is going to be quite the adventure.
For all the memorable characters, of which there are several, the aforementioned sword wielding woman known as Didi is going to be the one to truly sell the story. The community of Plaza de Vida will live or die by Didi’s direction, and sometimes it’s hard to tell which fate she’d be likely to prefer. Didi is a fascinating character, stemming from her pre-plague career as one of America’s most famous hardcore pornstars. Not to worry, there’s no graphic depictions of her former life (sexual ones anyway) but her character serves as an illustration of starting over, and how wildly both perceptions and career paths can change during a crisis.
Crisis comes in many forms, and the world of The Death Doll has naturally brought out the worst in humanity. With the community of survivalists living in relative luxury with power, food, and clean water, those who wish to take it are sure to be a constant threat. The novel’s primary antagonists come in the form of a white supremacy group, which helps to illustrate the terror of the proceedings through a relatable lens (shitty as that reality may be). With healthy doses of hateful language and intimidating moments, a hardened spirit may be a requirement for some readers. With endless twists and turns, the moments of terror and heroism are appropriately combined with the futility of living in such a fucked up post-history hell on earth.
Verdict: The Death Doll by Brian P White is an engaging zombie thriller filled with non stop adrenaline encrusted action from cover to cover. The content will pull no punches, served with plenty of violence and hatred in its purest form, just so you know what you’re getting into. Top notch character work with multiple jaw dropping moments will satisfy readers of all thriller sub-genres. Didi, her fascinating post-plague city and those that wish to destroy it from the inside and out will keep you guessing all the way through to the thrilling conclusion. I’ve never been a fan of zombie movies or television shows, but thanks to the ideas in this novel, I’m thinking that maybe I’ve got some catching up to do.