Story Rating: 4.5 stars
Audio Rating: 4 stars
Narrator: Tristan James
Length: 8 hours, 43 minutes
For Parker Osborne, getting a C — not just a C, a C minus — in what was supposed to be a cakewalk of a class is very nearly the end of the world. This stupid C- from a stupid TA is going to tank his GPA! As a freshman at prestigious west coast college, Parker is getting used to all sorts of things, such as roommates and being alone, but the last thing he ever thought he’d have to worry about would be grades. Parker was Salutatorian in High School, he’s a good student. He’s going to be a lawyer! Why should a stupid film class and stuck up “I’m a documentarian” Adam ruin everything for him?
And then the world really does end.
Overnight, people somehow turned into monsters. With jerky motions and glazed eyes and the horrible sound of the chattering of their teeth, these feral things — are they zombies? Infected? Are they even dead, or just sick? — are ripping people apart, clawing at them, dismembering them, and eating them! Parker can’t get his mother on the phone, or anyone, really. Power lines are down, the cities are crawling with the monsters, and the man who saved his life is none other than the TA Parker had, seconds ago, been giving a good telling off.
All Parker wants is to go home and check up on his family and, for a wonder, Adam is amenable. The only thing between them and Parker’s house is an entire country of zombies, paranoid survivors, mad scientists, oh, and to top it off, Parker has a crush on Adam the size of a mountain.
Welcome to the end of the world.
Parker is needy, emotional, fixated, brave, and bold, and an emotional wreck at various points during this book, and never once do any of these emotions lessen him as a protagonist (though they do lead to some whiny moments). As a second son, Parker had to learn to grab for whatever scraps of attention he could get from his parents. He’s always willing to offer himself to just about anyone on a platter in the hopes that someone will want him. Parker has had numerous flings, kneeling down and giving blowjobs, but he’s never been kissed, not really. The one guy he had a crush on was willing to let Parker get him off, but uninterested in either returning the favor, or wanting Parker in return, and it’s left Parker gun shy.
When Parker realizes he has a crush on Adam, he does his best to ignore it. After all, Adam has a girlfriend, a girlfriend who is probably dead, and it would just be beyond skeevy to make a pass at him. But, when Adam reveals that he’s not straight and is interested, Parker dives at him with everything he has. As the only two people left in this horrible nightmare world, he’d do anything to keep Adam from leaving him, and Adam is also a good, decent, admirable person and it isn’t long until Parker is offering up his heart to Adam. Not because Adam is some knight in shining armor or because he’s good in bed, but because somewhere along the line they became friends, and once they are, Parker realizes just how much Adam has come to mean to him, and how much he cares for him.
(Spoiler here about Adam that you may already know if you are familiar with this book)
Adam is the type to go along with the flow, rather than the type to make ripples (that’s Parker’s job), and he’s more than willing to let Parker pick their direction. Anywhere is better than nowhere and it’s not like they have classes to attend, anymore. Adam also doesn’t really think there’s a difference right now, considering the monsters are everywhere they look, so if Parker wants to go East, they go East. That doesn’t mean he’s passive or unwilling to take action; it’s just that there’s no reason to say no when Parker needs to see for himself if his family is okay.
This is a post-apocalyptic story with a paranormal twist. It’s not something I ever thought to look for and yet, somehow, the author manages to make it work. For all that we’re in Parker’s head through the story, Adam’s personality comes across, as does his very sly sense of humor. The two of them make a cute couple, and I’m looking forward to reading book two.The world building is also nice, giving us just enough flavor to enjoy without overwhelming us. There are gory scenes and horrifying moments, but they’re neither too long nor too descriptive. Some people they may want more information — where did the plague come from, what’s really going on, what’s happening elsewhere in the world — but with the focus of the story so tightly focused on the two main characters, I found myself not missing a more thorough world building because I was too busy enjoying the story.
Tristan James, the narrator, takes an interesting approach to this book. His voice is almost … mild and soothing, which is not what I expected from a zombie story. And yet, somehow, it works. However, just because it worked for me doesn’t mean it works for everyone, and I will say that the voices between the characters weren’t always distinctive. While Adam and Parker have some differences, when a third character is introduced — unless she’s female — the voices begin to blur together. It was also sometimes hard to tell where Parker’s inner voice and actual dialogue separated.
So, I’m torn. The book is well worth the read, and while I enjoyed the audio version, I’d suggest trying a sample before making up your mind. The book is over 8 and a half hours, and some people might find James’s quiet and calm reading to feel somewhat monotonous (which it did for me during some slow parts of the book.)