Short Take: This is the weirdest freakin road trip story ever. Minus the trip.
(*Note – I received a copy of this book from the author for review.*)
I’ve said a few times that I find zombie apocalypse stories fairly boring by now. Shambling brain eaters, plucky survivors, improvised weapons, food foraging, it’s all been done over and over and over.
So when I first saw “zombie apocalypse” in the description, I kind of went “meh”. But then the blurb went on, and well, when I saw vampires, Death (the dude, not the concept), and robots well, my nerdlings, I sat up a little straighter.
This particular End Of The World started with the Ecuador Explosion, which created the zombies, who quickly started turning most of humanity into mindless, biting, walking corpses. Of course, this was bad news for the vampires, who need a steady diet of blood from living creatures, so they came out of hiding and offered protection to any human willing to be sipped from occasionally.
Not very surprisingly, some humans choose a third option, which involves killing all the undead of both flavors, and this is where we find Emily. She’s a member of a group tasked with the aforementioned undead-slaying. But when a mission goes horribly wrong, she’s on her own, kind-of dead but not really. She’s also forced to partner up with capital-D Death (a newly de-horsed deity), to try to make it across the country to Manhattan, the last bastion of civilization. Emily is hoping for a cure for her condition, and Death is going to settle his sibling rivalry with his fellow horsemen once and for all.
We also meet up with Scott, a human who’s really not cut out for this whole apocalypse thing (or relationships), and his female partner/robot protector Carol, who are also headed to New York to find Scott’s sister for very different reasons.
And oh yeah, Leif the vampire is also going to Manhattan along the same road, with plans of HIS own. None of these characters has a reason to trust any of the others, all are keeping secrets, and all of them have their own agendas. Plus, all of them have very good motivations (and means) to kill the others. It’s a fantastic setup.
The problem is that it doesn’t really go anywhere. I understand that The Company of Death is the first book in a planned series, but it suffers from a serious lack of plot. There’s the big event that introduces Emily to Death, and then, for the next three hundred pages… nothing really happens. There are a few inconsequential fight scenes, and a lot (A LOT) of conversations about Death vs. Undeath, a bit of character building (Leif’s solitaire addiction is a particularly amusing bit), a few chunks of exposition for the two humans, some traveling in circles, and that’s about it. Just when it looks like it’s going to go somewhere, it’s over.
It’s like if The Breakfast Club ended when everyone arrived at detention, and one of my biggest pet peeves about some series – if you want me to buy your book, then give me a whole book, not an extended advertisement for your next book.
The other major problem I had with this book is that Emily is a VERY frustrating character. It seems like at every critical juncture, she decides to withhold information, putting everyone around her in jeopardy. She also has this odd fixation on “purity” but not the creepy daddy-daughter-dance kind of purity. Even though no human really WANTS to be a rotting but mobile corpse, or a mostly-living juicebox, her “standards” are brought up repeatedly, without any explanation or reason why her bodily autonomy should be taken more seriously than anyone else’s.
It’s a really great setup though, and Ms. Hansen has a beautifully sensual, lyrical style. And the character of Death is infuriating in all the most hilarious ways.
The Nerd’s Rating: Three Happy Neurons (and some protein bars, the kind with nuts and caramel. You know, the ones that say “Snickers” on the wrapper.)