Undead: Part 1 (Days 1-3) (audiobook)

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  1. Dave

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    [​IMG] Reviewer: Dave
    Review Date: October 1, 2015

    Released by: Random House Audio
    Release date: 3/5/2015
    MSRP: Various
    Audible Audible Studios
    2012

    The written word is a thing of beauty and magic. Our own imagination is perhaps the scariest thing around. Couple that with a good writer and you can be in for some pure terror. Sadly, these days I'm only able to read maybe 10-15 novels a year on my Kindle. Thanks to audio books, I have been able to extend that to about 25-30 novels a year. Audio books can be an amazing experience when done right. A quality narrator can make a good book better and a poor narrator can make a good book worse.

    After falling in love with The Walking Dead comic several years back (long before it became so popular), I branched out and returned to my true love - the written word. I went through a phase of reading novelizations of various movies, such as The Thing and some of the Friday the 13th adaptations Those were fun, albeit short reads. Lately I have been a big fan of book series such as Harry Bosch and even the over-the-top Dirk Pitt action novels. If I love the characters, I want more. It's just like a movie and their sequels. We love returning to our favorite characters for more adventures - especially when done right. While I have read a few zombie novels here and there, I can't really think of too many that have stood out as excellent books. When I stumbled upon a reddit thread suggesting the Undead series by R.R. Haywood, I researched it a bit further. Undead is a post apocalyptic zombie series started by author R.R. Haywood back in 2012. He has broken up the series into days, whereas each book represents a day in a zombie infested United Kingdom. It's not a traditional series where each book represents a single plot line and then the subsequent book features reoccurring characters in a whole new story. Undead is more of one big ongoing story broken up into days. For some people, zombies are a visual thing. I get that. You want the blood and gore that comes with it. For me, I love stories of people trying to survive after society has collapsed. I can't get enough of it. I have read countless post apocalyptic novels such as Lucifer's Hammer, One Second After, World War Z and countless others. The element behind society's collapse can be zombies, giant meteors, or terrorist attacks. I'm not picky.

    For this review I'm listening to the Undead: Part 1 audiobook, which covers days one to three. Considering the latest entry is day eighteen, I'm hoping the series (and the narrator) are enjoyable enough for me to continue on. When I find the right audiobook, it tends to consume my life a bit. I'll listen in the car, of course, but with the right book I'll skip listening to music on my jogs and continue on with the audiobook. I have gone through 20+ hour books in less than a week. On the other hand, with the wrong book (or narrator), it can take me a month to get through a 20 hour book. Lets take a look at Undead: Part 1 and see how it holds up.

    The Story

    Howie is a night manager at a popular supermarket chain in Boroughfare, a small town near Portsmouth, United Kingdom. During his time as manager, the company has seen an increase in sales, a drop in staff absenteeism, and a reduction in wastage by over twenty percent. The primary reason for all these changes, a reason he can't admit to the higher ups, is a nightly poker game that takes place among the employees. Various rules have been implemented, such as being barred from the nightly game if you break anything in the store (i.e wastage). Howie managed to get a Friday night off and is excited for a night at home involving pizza, beer, and his sofa. As he settles in for the night and begins flipping through channels on his TV, he sees footage of riots spreading throughout Europe. It began in small unknown countries and then spreads to larger countries like France and Germany. News reports of rioting begin to make mention of a pandemic - contagions and a fast acting virus spread by airborne particles or transferred by bodily fluids. Witness reports stated people were being bitten to death and the dead got back up and began biting more people. Howie stayed glued to the TV until morning. By morning, news channels consisted of tired and worn out anchors begging government officials for instructions on what to do. Society had collapsed overnight.

    Howie heads to his parents house nearby in Brighton. He grabs a mountain bike and starts the journey. Howie's not overweight but the pizza and beer have caught up with him; he's out of shape. He quickly becomes winded from all the bicycling. When he finally arrives, he discovers a note from his parents that they headed out to meet him. They also let him know that his sister Sarah is safe at home in London, locked in and secured. His parents implore him to stay at their home if they missed each other on the road; they will return.

    The next day, Howie realizes they aren't going to return. Whether they were lost to the undead or are simply holed up somewhere, he does not know. He heads back to his apartment and hopes to find his parents along the way. Back in Boroughfare, Howie discovers no sign that his parents have been to his home. He's lost as to what his next step should be. After confronting some zombies and barely surviving a crazy bartender at a stripclub, he decides to head over to the supermarket he works at to try and load up on some supplies. He uses his key to get in through the rear entrance and discovers Dave, an employee of his, slaughtering the undead as they stumble in through the front entrance. Dave has always been a loner. He's quiet and most of his discussions with Howie are simply Dave stating, "Yes, Mr. Howie." Howie tells Dave that he heard a message on the radio to head to the coastal forts for refuge. Dave agrees to go. They load up on supplies and head out.

    Along the way, Dave decides he must go to London to try and rescue his sister. A radio message indicated that London was infested and should be avoided at all costs. After learning that Dave has a mysterious military background he won't discuss, Howie asks him where they can find a tank or an armoured vehicle. There are barracks in Salisbury that should have them. Dave agrees to go with Howie and try to rescue his sister. They load up with weapons and begin their journey. Howie tries to learn more about Dave and his past along the way but receives mostly one word responses or Dave telling him that he's not allowed to discuss it. Try as he might, Howie cannot get Dave to stop calling him "Mr. Howie".

    They pass through Portsmouth and hit a barricade in the road; they cannot pass. Nearby, a women gets thrown out the front door of a building. Howie rescues her and the trio try and loop around the barricade. Soon after they are being fired upon. Dave and Howie return fire. They kill one and capture another, a young man terrified by Dave and his loud, drill sergeant-like voice. The young man explains that his father is John Jones, the local "boss", and he was told to go after Dave and Howie. They take the prisoner and head to the house of John Johnes. Things quickly go wrong and the encounter ends in a violent and bloody battle with humans and the undead.

    Dave and Howie make it through Portsmouth and meet up with some officers holed up in a secured building with no real plan or purpose. Day three ends with Davie and Howie spending the night with the officers before heading out to begin the next part of their journey to Salisbury.

    Undead is a promising to start to a zombie series that currently sits at day 18. In the introduction to book one, author R.R. Haywood explains his love of the post-apocalyptic genre and his frustration over the time gaps in the stories, explaining that many authors cover the initial event, or collapse of society, and then skip forward five or ten years. Here is the author himself explaining what he wanted to see:
    I was impressed with days one to three and while my initial intent was to move on to another book to review next for the site, my enjoyment was enough to change that plan. I'll now be listening to Part 2, days four through six, for my next review. I think it's important to do so because while Part 1 shows promise, there's not enough here for me to decide how much I enjoy the series. There is certainly lots of action involving both the undead and humans. There's also ample amounts of graphic depictions of zombies slaughtering the living and vice versa. That's important but it's also expected in a story involving the undead. It was my enjoyment of the protagonist, Howie, and his sidekick, Dave, that spurred me to start Part 2 immediately. There's something about the two, Dave in particular, that gives me a grin every single time Dave responds with, "Yes, Mr. Howie." To enjoy a character that has such simple and few lines of dialogue is a testament to the quality writing of R.R. Haywood. It's actually Howie's reactions to Dave that make the two as enjoyable as they are. The mystery of Dave himself has me yearning to learn more about him. Howie himself is equally enjoyable. He's the typical reluctant anti-hero that begins to step up to a role he is forced into. There's some initial luck to his survival, such as his trip to a strip club where he attempts to cop a feel from a chained up zombie stripper and then survives a psychotic bartender that catches him in the act. It's also clear that without Dave, Howie wouldn't have made it too far.

    I love that independent writing has thrived thanks to Amazon and the Kindle. You can spout monopoly as much as you want, or the fact that you prefer a good old fashioned paper book. No problem; there's actually a week one omnibus that is 800 pages long! You can't argue the fact that Amazon has birthed many successful independent authors, such as Hugh Howie and his Wool series, not to mention the countless others. It's an amazing thing that anyone can write a book and publish it on Amazon. That's both good and bad since weak writers are able to post countless amounts of garbage. It's often difficult to weed through the mess. That is where reviews like this, not to mention the ones on Amazon, come in. Always read some reviews before investing your hard earned time and money into a book.

    This audiobook is narrated by Dan Morgan. Dan is based in the United Kingdom and has a British accent. I was concerned the accent would hinder my enjoyment of the audiobook. Just the opposite happened - I loved it. Yes the accent is there but it adds to the quality of the narration. Perhaps it is because the story itself is based in the United Kingdom and there are countless mentions of "mates", "mobile", and other Britishisms. Regardless of the reason, Dan's narration is top notch. His voice is clean and he give a slightly different tone to each of the characters, a feature I always enjoy while listening to an audiobook. There's nothing better than being able to tell which character is 'speaking' simply by the tone of voice. I also loved it every time he chimed in as Dave and a "Yes, Mr. Howie."

    During my research of the series, not only for this review but for myself as well, I posted a note on the author's Facebook page if he has any idea of when the series will stop. His response was that more books are planned and he's not really sure when the series will conclude. That's typically a sign that there's lots more life left in the story. Series like this can quickly go stale if things become stagnant. We've seen it in the Walking Dead comics, which have gone through a cycle of introducing an antagonist to stir things up and then rinses and repeats. Three days in and 236 pages (or 7hrs 38 mins if you listen to the audiobook), things are fresh and interesting. It seems like the surface has hardly been scratched in the tale of Howie and company. I'm anxious to start Part 2 and see where things go next.

    Final Thoughts

    Undead is a promising start to an ongoing story of the zombie apocalypse. With plenty of zombie mayhem, interesting characters, quality writing (and narration), I recommend the series thus far. Be sure to read my upcoming review for Part 2. After six days of the story, I'm certain I'll have a better idea on the quality. For those interested, day one is available for a free download if you signup for the author's mailing list at http://www.rrhaywood.com/.

    Whether by reading or on audiobook, give this series a try. See you soon for Part 2!

    Rating

    [​IMG] Story - B


     
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2015

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