The other day I finished a proof copy of a book called The Return Man by V.M.Zigo. It is due to be published in March and I can wholeheartedly recommend it.
It is a book set in a future where a mystery virus has created zombies, but the outbreak has been containe, albeit to a very large area. Basically the entire Western half of the USA has been evacuated leaving it populated only by the undead while the survivors cram in the the Eastern safe states.
One man hid from the evacuation teams and stayed behind to look for his wife with the intention of laying her to rest if she has been infected. In the meantime he takes commissions from people in the safe states to find their loved ones and ‘retturn’ them to a peaceful death.
It is an interesting twist on the whole zombie situation, making a change from the usual flight to safety. My only reservation was that it sounded like a good outline for a film and I couldn’t see how you could really capture the whole spirit of the films on paper, but it turns out you can and this bloke has done it!
The zombies are very much in the Romero tradition of shuffling slow zombies, which is the way I like them.
All the usual elements are there but with some extra depth and background. The hero is not a typical survivalist, but a surgeon who has had to teach himself how to survive in that environment and how to hunt. Thanks to satellite connections he is able to communicate with a relative out East who hooks him up with clients and provides a link to what is happening outside. The descriptions of how society has reacted and coped is not overdone but is enough to make you think seriously about how the world would adapt – not well, with the far right taking control of the remaining states.
Doctor Marco gets persuaded to take on a mission to find a specific corpse in California and on the quest he hooks up with a Chinese soldier sent from outside and here is another twist as the soldier’s Chinese cultural attitudes towards the dead make him more ready to kill live people than to re-kill corpses.
All of this means that there is a proper story arc with an objective more complex than just trying to avoid being over-run, and it is written in a decent, direct style without being trashy, and there are some spectacular set pieces in it. To go into too much detail would constitute major spoilers, but I will say that there is a sequence on a stalled train and a another where the hero wants to break into a prison crammed full of thousands of ex-con zombies who have been trapped there in order to find one specific ex-person.
All through the book, while enjoying it immensely, I could not stop myself wishing there was a film of it too so I was quite pleased to see that a company has already taken out an option on the film rights. Even so, I’m glad to have read the book because it contain a lot that a film would understandably miss out.
Best of all, the book comes to proper resolution that is satisfying enough while still leaving lots of scope for a sequel, which I will be first in the queue for when it comes out.