BOOK REVIEW: Dead Aware: A Zombie Journey by Eleanor Merry

Unique, original zombie drama…and so much more!

Ever heard of a zombie story where the zombies aren’t only brain-dead, blood-thirsty monsters? One told largely from the perspective of two zombies? Two zombies who are in love and separated across a vast distance in the middle of the world collapse?

I hadn’t either, and the thought never crossed my mind that I ever would, but Eleanor Merry has delivered just such a story, a hybrid of a road story, self-discovery, romance, and horror. This is her first novel, and I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised with the outcome.

It takes a lot for me to pick up and read a zombie novel. Not because I hate the genre, there are plenty of classics out there, but because of the vast quantities of terrible ones. It’s a sub-genre so saturated, it has become difficult to burn away all the dross to find the gems inside.

Merry, however, has delivered just such a gem. Max and Clara are separated because Max had to take a trip across Canada just before the virus hits that sends the world into chaos. Both he and Clara end up succumbing to the virus, and reawaken, reborn without memories of their former lives and little motor skills or understanding. But, as they navigate through this strange new world, memories begin to return, even rudimentary speech, and they find their identities as they struggle to find each other from so far away.

You soon come to care for the main characters, and as the journey progresses, we meet several other characters along the way, some wonderful, some evil, and others in between. The fact that Merry has turned a zombie novel into an allegory for racism was something I truly never expected to see, and it ended up really working for me. All of these elements came together to take a genre story that is inarguably tired for a great many people around the world and turn it into a dazzlingly original drama hidden within the confines of a horror novel. This was a brilliant spin on the whole thing, effectively turning zombie fiction on its head, and all I can do is give Ms. Merry a standing ovation and a hearty, “Bravo!”

If you like zombie novels in general, this has all the things you’re looking for. The gore is never over the top, but there are two or three scenes where I shuddered from the descriptions on the page. If you like road stories, there’s a terrific one in here as Max, taking the young newly-turned zombie Jay along with him, makes his way home to his wife. If you like suspense stories involving shady government and military types, you’ve got that, too. And, if you have a soft spot for some heartfelt romance, it’s littered all across the pages of this purely entertaining debut novel.

Any of that sound interesting to you? Trust me, it is. The author writes in a voice all her own, and though I’ve never been to Canada myself, I could see its beauty and variance vividly in my mind’s eye. There’re moments of terror, of sadness, of frustration, of humor, and excitement.  It’s not a long read, but it feels complete and I’m glad I decided to invest the time in it, and I look forward to more from this terrific new author.

You won’t regret it either. Find it in print and digital here.

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