Tuesday, 10 June 2014

‘Entombed’ – Brian Keene (Deadite Press)

Because every so often, there is a zombie novel that makes me want to carry on reading in the sub-genre.

If Stephen King got me reading horror then it’s Brian Keene who kept me reading it. Keene is superb at what he does and long may that continue.  It has been ages since I’ve read anything new by Brian Keene though, what with the whole Leisure debacle and it suddenly becoming a lot harder to find his books in paperback over here (I know, eBooks…). I finally managed to find a copy of ‘Entombed’ the other day which is a big deal for me as it’s a book I’ve been looking forward to reading for a long time (ever since ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town’ was published back in 2011…). I had really enjoyed ‘Dead Sea’ and was eager for more tales in the same setting. The plan then was to savour the read but I polished ‘Entombed’ off in one sitting, it’s a very short read so it’s all too easy to keep going until you come to the end. I really enjoyed it but… First up, let’s have some blurb,

It has been several months since the disease known as Hamelin's Revenge decimated the world. Civilization has collapsed and the dead far outnumber the living. The survivors seek refuge from the roaming zombie hordes, but one-by-one, those shelters are falling.

Twenty-five survivors barricade themselves inside a former military bunker buried deep beneath a luxury hotel. They are safe from the zombies... but are they safe from one another? As supplies run low and despair sets in, each of them will find out just how far they're willing to go to survive.

‘Entombed’ is an incredibly short novel (one hundred and forty four pages) so if you’re looking for a long review then you might want to come back tomorrow, or perhaps the day after. This is a very straightforward read, linear in fact, with a clear progression from A to C by way of B. That’s not entirely a bad thing, Keene gives us an intriguing premise to  kick things off and there is an appropriate sense of urgency to the proceedings which makes for some tense moments. Without giving too much away though, it does get repetitive very quickly. This is to be expected given the nature of the plot, and the limited amount of space that Keene gives himself to work in (which doesn’t come off as claustrophobic as you would have thought), but ‘Entombed’ does settle into a groove that can lull its reader when the opposite should be happening.

It’s a brave move by Keene to write a zombie novel that doesn’t actually have zombies in it for the most part. The zombie apocalypse is happening but the real dangers lie within with people forced to make hard choices and then live by the outcomes.  As the main character, Pete has the most of this and Keene charts the consequences of Pete’s increasingly violent actions with grim vigour. When it’s your life on the line, what would you do? Keene’s honesty makes for compelling reading.

As a long term reader of Keene’s work though, it is getting a little tiresome seeing the background to the apocalypse being told in detail yet again (I make that two novels and one short story, maybe two, that give us the exact same background). I get that people might not read the books in publication order etc, it’s just starting to niggle at me a little bit. I mean, would everyone really watch the same news channels and get exactly the same picture of a zombie apocalypse or would perspectives differ slightly? Just a little tweaking here and there would make for a much rounded picture of the worlds end and make the series as a whole a lot more interesting. That’s what I think anyway.

‘Entombed’ is over a little too quickly then and treads ground that is in real danger now of becoming over familiar. It does everything else just right though, a tense tale of murderous necessity.

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