Book Review: Undead on Arrival by Justin Robinson

15733320Title: Undead on Arrival
Author: Justin Robinson
Genre: Horror, Zombies
Publisher: Solstice Publishing
Publication Date: June 21st, 2012
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Review copy provided by the author in exchange for honest review.

Today is the last day of Glen Novak’s life.

Five years after the end of the world, the few remaining humans are barricaded in a small vacation town on the California coast, beset by hordes of the undead.

A single bite turns a man into a walking corpse. There’s no cure and no hope.

Someone made sure Novak was bitten and now he has one day to put things in order, protect his people and, most importantly, exact revenge.

Undead on Arrival isn’t your typical zombie Apocalypse book. It takes place after the end of the world has happened, and focuses on the remaining survivors. The protagonist, Glen Novak, isn’t a person you’d normally like, or would even talk to. He has a position of power in this new world, but he’s still coping with the guilt he’s carried with him all these years – guilt over his dead wife, guilt over the children he abandoned when the world crumbled apart. He lives in a secluded village, slightly more than a compound, and tries to survive. Unfortunately that may become a hassle when someone lets a zombie head loose in his house, and the zombie manages to bite him. The rule is to kill everyone who’s been bitten. There is no cure to becoming a zombie. There is no hope for those infected. But Glen Novak is determined to find the man or woman who did this to him. And by extracting his revenge, he may end up causing more harm than he initially bargained for…

What is so unique about this book that I liked it from the moment I started reading is the author’s fresh take on the zombie apocalypse. Usually when I read a zombie book or watch a zombie movie, I see people running for their lives practically three fourth of the time. Here, not so much. Humanity has settled down. They’ve made make-shift cities, they’ve tried to survive in a world that’s suddenly become hostile. They still have memories of life before, and are trying to place those. Some are overwhelmed by grief. Others by guilt. Everyone has their story and the burden they carry, but they work together, as good or as bad as the circumstances let them, and try to make it through another day. They come across a large number of problems: food shortage, gasoline shortage, no electricity, no internet. And the most difficult thing of all: some of them have lost their family, and have no clue whether or not they’re still alive. Maybe they’re wondering out there somewhere, still human, looking for their loved ones as well. That thought along is chilling, it’s such a strong, thought-provoking idea it lingered in my mind during the entire read.

Undead on Arrival spans little more than twenty-four hours, but a lot can happen in that time. Glen Novak gets to the bottom of the secrets buried at his new home, at The Athena, a mighty and large hotel overlooking the compound, and the people behind it. We see the worst in humanity, as well as the best. All characters Glen meets during his search for vengeance are well-defined, complex human beings. They could walk straight out of the book. Some of them I hated from the start, others I grew to like as the story progressed. Hardly ever have I seen an author put that much care and thought into the side characters, developing them until the point they could become protagonists themselves.

The first half of the book sets the mood. It begins slow, painting for us the circumstances of the afterwar of the apocalypse, the daily life of survivors, and the quest to solve the mystery Glen Novak wants to solve before he dies. But then a zombie attack happens, and we’re thrown in the middle of the action, fighting along with the characters for our lives. It’s a vivid experience for a reader when you can say action scenes are so well described you feel like you’re playing in them – and that’s the case here.

The writing is sublime. It was spot on, every single time. Slow when needing to set the mood, fast and relentless when the action started. Mr. Robinson is obviously a very talented author, and one I hope to read several more novels from. He has described the zombie apocalypse in a way no one else has, and I’m truly amazed at how well he portrayed all characters in this book.

If you want to survive the zombie apocalypse, you better read Undead on Arrival.

Author Interview

I’m delighted I could ask Mr. Robinson some interview questions about his book, Undead on Arrival.

1) When did you know you wanted to become a writer?

I don’t know if there was ever an exact moment. I’ve been writing all my life, but there were periods where I stopped. I decided to write novels after working as a script doctor for an animation studio, and working in the comics industry. Writing novels is more rewarding because you’re writing for people who legitimately love to read.

2) What inspired you to write Undead on Arrival?

I love film noir, and am a huge fan of DOA. I wanted to do a riff on that classic story using zombies.

3) Which character did you like to write about the most? Which was your least favorite character?

The first is Pulaski, with Cheeseman a close second. I really liked the concept that the biggest bad ass in town was a transvestite, and his voice was a lot of fun to channel. With Cheeseman, he sort of symbolized the main character’s self-loathing, so I had a good time giving voice to the fact that Novak really isn’t a good guy.

I had trouble with Calomiris and Rippey, the other two town fathers. They’re noir villains so they had to be pretty reprehensible, but I also didn’t want them to be cartoonish monsters. It was a tough line to walk and I’m not sure I succeeded.

4) How long did it take you to write Undead on Arrival from start to finish?

Outlining and the first draft took about three months, and I think I took around three months on subsequent drafts.

5) What was the most challenging part about writing Undead on Arrival?

Writing the main character, Glen Novak. He had to be a bad guy, so that there were enough people who wanted him dead. But I also had to make him sympathetic enough so that the reader wasn’t actively rooting for him to die. I tried to do that by making him a bad person by our standards, but maybe not as much for his time and place. I tried to use Novak’s self-awareness to mitigate some of his worse qualities.

6) Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Read every day. Write every day. And always use outlines.

7) Are you working on something right now? If so, please tell us more about it!

I just finished a draft of a comedy noir novel that’s sort of like The Big Lebowski if David Huddleston was a giant eyeball.

I’m looking forward to reading more of your books, and thanks for answering my interview questions!

Giveaway

On top of that, Mr. Robinson agreed to give away a paperback copy of Undead on Arrival to one lucky winner. And guess what? The contest is international. If you want to participate, just fill in the Rafflecopter form!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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