Enclave: A novel of the Zombie Apocalypse:This probably would have been better titled Enclave: Tales from the Zombie Wars. I believe these were initially intended to be a themed set of short stories.  The writing is good.  The author can write a well-conceived battle scene with tight descriptive sentences.  But there are three basic things wrong here, and while ignoring them for the sake of the story is not too difficult, on the whole it detracts from the book’s ability to tell what little story there is.
Initially, I got stuck on the use of weaponry.  The action takes place in the 2030s and much is made of the number of veterans from the “Mideast Interventions”.  For the most part the Enclaves are equipped with WWII and Vietnam era equipment.   Weapons from WWII might be in perfect working order (doubtful) but ammo close to 100 years old would have long ceased being viable. Vietnam era equipment would be in better shape, but still over 70 years old.  Pillaging of armories at the outset of the troubles would have netted military weapons designed and manufactured in the last 20-30 years.

 

In a couple of places the author makes mention of the men and women fighting, and their service for the country.  One officer contemplates his father’s stories of storming the beaches of Normandy in World War II and how military service had been ingrained in him from childhood.  It is a very strong image.  But anyone of fighting age would be too young to have a father in World War II.

 

The act of becoming a zombie gets a little murky the further into the book you go. Initially, zombies were the product of an injected virus.  When they escaped or were released, they enlarged their numbers by ravaging the unsuspecting.  Soon, however, those dying of natural causes also rise up and become the undead. Somewhere in the middle they started chopping off the heads of civilians and burning them to a crisp to prevent an epidemic within the walls of the Enclaves.

 

At the beginning of the novel it’s possible that an aerosol vector has been developed. An aerosol would explain the rising up of the naturally dead in terms of some form of susceptibility to reanimation, but nothing is done with the idea.

 

Combat troops are given a drug “zombicillin” that apparently protects them from being instantly turned into zombies if they are injured. Those on zombicillin turn into zombies if they are killed just as certainly as everyone else.  The concept of instant zombification isn’t truly used and is never explained.  An additional paragraph or two could have explained what zombicillin was capable of in terms of protection from zombification.

 

Consider the ‘rules of engagement’ for zombies.  At the beginning, they only ate living flesh, then they ate any flesh they got their hands on.  They were completely senseless. (How they are drawn to the living isn’t really clear.  This is not generally clear in any zombie scenario so we’ll leave it alone.) Then, they could smell living flesh.  But they were still really dumb, couldn’t see or hear.  Later, they were attracted to the sounds of movement, their hearing being exceptional.  There were zombies who would stand patiently behind rope netting, waiting to be lead.  Elsewhere zombies apparently so hungry they climbed over each other knocking down reinforced fencing and pushing doors that have been welded shut to get to the food.  Had these been stand alone stories the author could have gotten away with this.  As one extended work, however, clear criteria should have been drawn up.  Not necessarily for the reader, but for the author to maintain continuity.

 

What are motivations of the leaders of the religious cult?  The description of making the earth the domain of the dead, seems simple enough.  The belief that one who is fed to the undead will sit before the feet of God, makes sense.  It comes apart though, when they send the unbeliever in that direction by giving them to the zombies. Later in the book, the stipulation that you must ‘feed’ to enter paradise clears this up a bit.  Part of the problem is simply because the religious order existed prior to the disaster.  What were their plans for the rapture before the plague?

 

His explanation consists of about two sentences.  There is plenty of material to create an understanding and an antipathy toward the villain.  Repeating the mantra of personal vengeance isn’t sufficient.  Say what holds such strong sway over the congregation and their ability to induce followers and converts to act on their behalf?  Is it the promise of a better life in the afterworld? Well, crap, go get chomped and be done with it.  You don’t need a preacher for figuring that out.

 

There has to be a plot here somewhere.  But there is no cohesive tale in the telling.  He teases us with the personal lives of the characters, failing to follow through with enough detail to make us want to care about them.  The author doesn’t build a solid foundation of comradeship although he tries.  While he does use one character, Joe Taylor, as a central focal point, he jumps away often enough that the reader’s connection to the character and his troops dwindles.  Someone else’s brief story is played out and then “…meanwhile, back at the ranch.” We’re unable to form a bond with Taylor and the rest of his team.  We never learn enough about them. We never see enough personal interaction to feel drawn into their lives.

 

I really enjoyed reading at the outset, but toward the end I was struggling with serious zombie battle fatigue. All we’d done was fight zombies, we hadn’t learned the fates of those we’d fought beside or sworn to protect.  We never made love, drank beer, or cleaned our weapons.  This lack of a sense of community causes the final downfall of this work as a novel.

 

Anyone who needs 3 appendices and an afterword needs to find someone who knows how to write a story.

 

If you haven’t read this, and want to, I will leave the final solution to the zombie problem for you to figure out.  It seems simple enough.

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