Zombies…I love a good zombie story! Zach Sweet’s Zombie Rain is a quick little adventure through a rather horrific zombie invasion that leaves a single Dad losing the one thing most precious to him, his son. Within the first few pages of this book, you know that this story is going to tug at your heartstrings and keep you up at night! So, grab my hand, dear reader, and hold on tight as we discuss Zombie Rain.
Jack, a single gay dad, returns with this son Thomas from a weekend camping trip with no inkling at all that his day is about to run headlong into a nightmare. When little Thomas comes running into the house clutching his arm, shouting that his friend bit him, Jack immediately cleans and bandages his wound. After, as he comforts his little boy, the pair drift off to sleep blissfully unaware that there world is about to turn upside down.
When they waken, Thomas is transformed in to a creature that is nearly unrecogni
zable: pale, purple bruises covering his body and black gore dripping from his mouth. Thomas is a zombie. He immediately attacks his father who narrowly escapes out into the street only to find the utter chaos his neighborhood has become. Frantically, Jack searches for “normal” human beings, finding that one of his neighbors has also survived. When he rescues her and they re-emerge into the street, they are attacked and the woman is torn apart limb from limb. It is gruesome and yet, I must admit, I could not stop reading. Sweets is a burgeoning horror novelist if I have ever read one—a junior Stephen King in the making!!
However, rescue is on the way. Into the fray steps Rex, a gun-toting man who has lost his wife and two children and is now desperately searching for his brother, who is a long distance trucker. On his way through town, Rex sees Zack making a run for it and pursues him straight to his house, managing to convince the shell-shocked Zack to open the door and let him inside. The next scene simply shocked me to no end. Unflinchingly Sweets makes this fantasy horror dramatically real when he has Rex shoot and kill Thomas who is attempting to, essentially, rip his father to pieces.
Are you breathless yet? Well, hang on, because we are only through about 15% of this novella! The next chapter in this story allows us front row seats to the fight for survival and budding romance of Zack and Rex. Yes, you may well shake your head at the idea of a straight man becoming “gay for you” but put yourself in their place. Surround yourself with death at every turn and tragedy in your personal life and see if the idea of someone holding onto to you in the dark of the night does not seem a very real possibility!
If I had any problems with this story it happened in the last third of the book with the arrival of a “zombie king” of sorts. This zombie seems to be able to control hordes of others with his mind and had extraordinary powers, such as the ability to shoot deadly lasers with his fingertips and eyes. Unfortunately, the zombie purist in me, balked at this character. It was just a bit too convenient, a bit too unbelievable.
I know, I know, we had already checked reality at the door when we began to read this book, but this seemed to be a bit over the top and was left unfinished. The way in which he was conveniently destroyed, how he came to be, why he was at all, remained a mystery, and it left an otherwise trim little story with a few too many loose ends.
However, aside from this development, the story was quite good. The two men were sweet to each other—their relationship had its problems, which allowed it to be more real to me. I really wanted them to survive! Sweets draws good characters that move into your heart and take up residence there—it is one of his many strengths as a writer.
The zombies were truly scary and the descriptive passages of the two men interacting with the creatures made my heart race! I bought every second they were on the page and their threat to Zack and Rex was so very real.
All in all this was a very enjoyable novella. A scary yet sweet story of second chances and finding hope amidst the ashes.