The Living Dead, by George A. Romero and Daniel Kraus, is a zombie horror novel set in present-day USA. The story is told from multiple viewpoints, but we begin with two medical examiners who make the discovery of a body that seemingly returns to life. This is the beginning of a mass zombie apocalypse which is set to spread across America and bring together the lives of people who may have otherwise never been destined to meet.
As the outbreak spreads, more and more people are affected by it, but we begin with the characters having little to no way of identifying the beings which are appearing to return to life. They turn to the internet, radio stations and the television to try and warn the public of what is coming, with varying degrees of success. This highlights the use of media and the contrast between those who put it to use and those who rely on it as a platform for their own vanity.
The story progresses, with the now-identified zombies appearing to take over the Earth. The characters end up crossing paths in unexpected ways which later leads to them forming groups in order to survive. The groups culminate in a hierarchy being established, from which members enter and leave of their own accord. Some do so voluntarily, but others are forced out because of the influence they attempt to hold over the group which puts their lives at risk at certain points in the book.
However, as the story continues, an interesting theme begins to emerge. Rather than the zombies being portrayed as monsters, they are viewed in a new light by some of the group members/main characters. Instead of killing them, they try to respect them and discover that the zombies are merely animals who are functioning on instinct. They have no desire to kill, only to feed and remember the lives they have left behind. Instead, the characters are portrayed as the true monsters, turning against each other on a whim and seeking power and adoration for its own sake. All the zombies have done is highlight the things that should really matter.
When I first saw this book, I immediately wanted to read it. I love George Romero’s work and Day of the Dead is one of my favourite zombie films. This did not disappoint and despite the book’s length, both Romero and Kraus have an ability to keep the reader invested in the characters from start to finish.
The length is both a positive and negative, depending on how invested the reader becomes in the story. Some may find it off-putting and wish for a similar, more condensed version. Others will love it and not want it to end. For me, I think a balance could be achieved by having less background information and more action, but it would be difficult to figure out where. The book is so multi-layered and carried me along at a steady pace.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. It is available on Amazon, and I also highly recommend the audiobook, read by Bruce Davison and Lori Cardille. Their voices bring the story to life.