Thursday, February 04, 2010

Book Review: "State of Decay" by James Knapp

Vampires and werewolves have been all the rage for awhile but zombies are rapidly becoming the "it" thing in paranormal fiction. Most zombie fiction is typically envisioned in the style of Night of the Living Dead, in which the shambling undead attack the living in an attempt to assuage their insatiable hunger. James Knapp's new book, State of Decay, takes all the familiar tropes of zombie fiction and gives them a real world spin that is both convincing and plausible. Nico Wachalowski is an FBI agent; a first tier citizen who has gained his status by both his military service and his continued work for the government. While investigating a revivor sex ring, Nico stumbles across a much larger conspiracy and discovers that military grade revivors are being smuggled into the country. Revivors are zombies in the sense that they are the reanimated dead. In "State of Decay" becoming a zombie is voluntary and a frequent means for a person to move up in caste. Legal revivors are generally used as soldiers, but their use is controversial and they are kept away from general populace. But someone is smuggling illegal revivors and using them commit a bizarre series of murders. "State of Decay" moves very quickly and introduces the main characters in separate chapters in which each character is presented in the first person viewpoint-- with Nico as the common thread. There are many strong points to Knapp's story; my favorite being his re-imagining of the zombie tale. It's not hard to envision a society where the dead could be brought back to life to use as cannon fodder. The ethical dilemmas could be pushed aside as long as the living person volunteers to give up their body in exchange for higher status in a caste oriented society. Simple idea that has more depth than you'd think at first. Naturally the next progression is the black-market use of the revivors in the sex trade. Technology has made sure that the natural hunger of the revivors can be controlled and since revivors can't feel-- no harm done. Unless, of course, the revivors can feel human emotion. Something we get to find out as Knapp gives us the first person perspective of a revivor-- pure genius that. "State of Decay" isn't perfect though. The plot tends to be somewhat convoluted and not enough time is spent on exploring the tier system. The characters are terrific but they're written as if they were characters in a movie and not given a lot of background. In fact, the whole book reads like a well developed screenplay and I could envision it as a really good movie. But when I read a book I like to see more depth. Knapp's writing style is really interesting. He manages to pull you into the story very easily and manages to convey a lot of ideas very quickly. But when I finished the book I still had some nagging questions. I want to know more, I want to understand more about this world he has created. I'm genuinely intrigued and vaguely dissatisfied. So the dilemma is whether to recommend the book or not...I'm going with a thumbs up because I was really drawn to the world Knapp created. Yeah, there might be plot holes, but as I was reading I kept thinking this book is cool. Not a deep reason for a recommendation, but a valid one nonetheless. There's just something here, stylistically and story-wise, that I find appealing. I do hope that Knapp fills in the gaps in the sequel that's sure to come because I'd like to visit this story again.

4 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

I know, it's suddenly zombie central everywhere. But I do like a good zombie work.

Sullivan McPig said...

I love a good zombie story, so zombies being the latest craze is a good thing I think. I might pick this one up if I runacross it.

Stewart Sternberg said...

I heard of this book and want to read it. And for anyone who wants to read another zombie book..don't forget THE RAVENING, coming soon to Amazon for preorder..just a shameless plug.

SQT said...

Stu-- I'll plug the hell out of The Ravening for you. Post away all you want when news comes out on it.