Blaine Edwards is a photography student. Or at least he was before the Outbreak. Now he’s just trying to say alive. Friends and familiar faces have turned into undead killers and Blaine is left scrambling to survive as he tries to reach his mother in Bristol.
Commander Andrew Peterson has been given impossible orders: kill anyone, living or dead, who poses a threat to the naval compound he protects. Orders are orders but the guilt of issuing them threatens to destroy him. When his best friend and sometimes lover is killed, Andrew walks away from the Royal Navy and into the madness of a world without rules. Andrew agrees to accompany Blaine to Bristol and, while there is strength in numbers, the world around them is far from safe. For some there will be no tomorrow and as Andrew and Blaine grow closer, they must decide if they are willing to risk their hearts for a love that may not last.
I’m a sucker for a good apocalyptic novel. I tend to enjoy the interplay between the various aspects of humanity as society begins to break down. I suspect that says something about me. Love is for the Living is a fairly well written novel with a strong sense of place and a creep factor that skirts the edges of becoming unnecessarily violent. Unfortunately it’s also a bit humdrum. Quite quickly it falls prey to more than one worn out zombie survival trope and never really establishes itself as particularly original.
The author has done a good job setting a strong tone with the novel. Blaine’s fear and terror as he tries to escape London feel legitimate and visceral. The emotive strength to Love is for the Living carries it through more than a few plot and character hurdles. Blaine is young and naive and had his character been allowed to remain so, I think his dynamic with Andrew would have been far more interesting. Instead he is taken in by a survivalist almost immediately and trained to defend himself against the growing zombie threat. This was a plot device pure and simple and really felt wedged into the wider story. Blaine’s character feels muted, as though he has a great deal to offer the reader but is never really allowed off his leash. So he’s not quite as relatable as Andrew and always suffers from a lack of definition. Andrew is the stronger of the two main characters and emotionally more substantial, but tends to seesaw back and forth between being a basket case and a tough as nails military man. Which, I suppose, could be a perfectly normal response to a zombie apocalypse but it never feels natural for this character.
If you seen an episode of the Walking Dead then you know what to expect from Love is for he Living. There is violence, which I didn’t mind but if you’ve got low threshold for it then consider this your warning. But like the Walking Dead, my biggest frustration with this book is that it starts off strong and goes absolutely nowhere. The first half of the book has a frantic, edginess to it that really held my attention. But the second half falls prey to the lethargy of what happens once you’ve survived. The action drops away dramatically and the readers are left with what amounts to a soap opera between Blaine, Andrew, and the others who have become a part of their tiny group. Not all of this back-and-forth is bad and the development between Blaine and Andrew, while somewhat predictable, is still rewarding. There are other storylines though that are never fully realized and end up being discarded without having added much to the plot. Love is for the Living is part of a series, with the sequel expected at some point in the future. I’m certainly willing to read more about Blaine and Andrew’s relationship, but given how the initial book ended, my fear is that the sequel may follow some of the same, predictable paths that bogged down Love is for the Living.
This book certainly had its strong points, not the least of which was a powerful emotive connection established between the reader and the characters, at least during the first half of the book. While Andrew and Blaine don’t always live up to their potential as characters their journey is still engaging. Love is for the Living is burdened with plenty of tired zombie tropes but the plot doesn’t completely dissolve under the weight of them. I’m going to keep my fingers crossed that the sequel build upon Love is for the Living’s foundation and end up even stronger.