Brian Jameson is having a normal day, watching a movie on his tablet, when all hell breaks loose. He hears gunshots and screaming and his panicked father on the phone with 911. Brian’s mother has shot and killed an intruder who sprang from their bedroom closet, scratched her, and tried to bite her. Things begin to go downhill from there.
With his family gone, all Brian has is his grandfather, a retired military veteran. Trained in survival, with hunting skills and other useful things, the two hole up for a while, but eventually have to leave. They head to the home of Brian’s childhood friends, twins Louis and Eva, and their grandfather. The situation there isn’t much better, and eventually, Brian, Louis, and Eva have to make their way off their compound into the world if they have any hope of survival.
Along the way, they encounter danger…from the ghouls they call “stalkers” and from other survivors. Even through the horrifying events, Brian and Louis begin to fall in love. Will that love be strong enough to overcome society’s downfall? Or will it end up destroyed, just like everything else in the world?
Let me start by telling you how much I love post–apocalyptic stories. If you add in a mystery disease and zombies, I am ready to rock and roll. The reason I chose Stalker/s is because it combined my love for horror stories with my love of romance. I was excited to read this one, but I’m going to have to say, I was disappointed with it and I hate to have to do that.
The story began with a bang…literally. Brian’s world is shattered when his mother shoots and kills a man in their bedroom. This is fast paced and rather exciting. Once it became clear there was some sort of disease going around, the world collapsed at a rapid pace. I’d say I was kind of shocked at some of what happened. It was quick and painful and I was impressed. I felt this was a bold choice for the author. I also liked the amount of detail given during Brian’s interaction with his grandfather. There was no amount of coddling on his grandfather’s part. This was pure survival, so they couldn’t afford it.
After Brian and his grandfather arrived at Louis and Eva’s home (their grandfather is old friend of Brian’s own grandfather), the story began to slow down for me. Once Brian, Louis, and Eva are out on their own, they are fighting off stalkers, trying to get enough to eat, and even trying to have a bit of a good time. Who wouldn’t enjoy a bit of time roller skating at an abandoned rink? However, I found that I wasn’t connecting with the three friends like I’d imagined. I didn’t feel any significant attachment that made me want to actually root for them. I kind of felt like I was removed from the actual goings on.
To me, the writing style felt a little clunky. However, I was able to follow it without too much trouble. This book was long, and there was a lot going on, and a lot of side characters to keep track of. The world building was all right, and Hasbrouck paid attention to detail, so there weren’t any plot holes I could pick out. The scary parts were sufficiently scary and the action was impressive. It just dragged. I wanted to skim several parts, but I also wanted to press through so I could be objective.
As far as character development, Brian, Louis, and Eva seem to be a little mysterious. I didn’t feel like I knew much about them, even though there are some details provided. I think I wound up “knowing” the most about Louis, and a lot of the information about him came in the form of conversations between Brian and Eva. As the story goes on, the more disturbing things became.
There are a lot of background characters in Stalker/s. They were all pretty well fleshed out. They had dimension and back stories and I thought that was excellent. As with the rest of the story, some of the plot involving them was long and slow, but they still shined. In one occasion, I wanted to learn more about a particular side character, rather than Brian and Louis.
I did see a few bits that could be considered paying homage to some other, familiar zombie fiction. A case in point was Brian and Louis finding a horse and naming him Grimes. I’m not sure if that was intentional on the author’s part, but it gave me a bit of a smile.
Now…a little about the ending. I don’t want to give too much away and so I’ve been trying to come up with a word to explain how I felt about it. I think I’ve settled on “frustrating.” I felt like I’d been through this long, frightening, and slow journey with Brian and Louis, and I was let down by the end. For those of you who might be interested, details are behind the spoiler. If not, the short version is that the story ends with what I’d consider a cliffhanger and with no HEA/HFN for our main characters, nor is there an indication that this is part of a series with more to come. [spoiler]After making it to the island they were trying to find, Louis reveals he’d done some pretty awful things…including leaving his sister Eva alive, locked in a closet, in order to have Brian to himself (not ideal leading man material). Brian then leaves Louis alone on the island and sails off to see if he can find and, perhaps, save her. I felt like this was a cliffhanger of ending, rather than an HEA or HFN, and the ending seemed unresolved.[/spoiler]
All in all, I think Stalker/s is a decent story with a good set of bones. I feel like certain situations could have been handled a bit differently, such as adding more character development, for instance. I’m going to cautiously recommend it to fans of post-apocalyptic horror with romantic elements…especially if zombies are your thing.