Monday, February 20, 2012

Dead Tropics

 NOTE: This is the rough draft of a review published at The polished review can be viewed at that website. Please check it out.

Dead Tropics is what I imagine many self published books are like. It’s surprisingly good, but despite it’s quality, is still in need of a good professional editor. (Not that, as a professional editor myself, I have any bias in the matter.) But you’re probably not as interested in the various grammatical foibles of the story as I am, so let’s move on to the meat of the book.

Dead Tropics takes place on an island that I believe is a part of Australia. (So if you’re American, expect some unfamiliar spellings.) Lori Nelson is a nurse, wife, mother, and secret badass. Not even she realizes just how awesome she is, until one day when a local mine delves too deep and too greedily, and unleashes an ancient evil beyond the reckoning of man or dwarf... Err... Sorry, wrong book. No, in Dead Tropics a local mine does dig too deep and it unleashes... something. Most of the miners contract a virus and they get deathly ill. So they’re taken to hospitals for treatment and... well... I think you can see where this is going. Lori sees the virus spread, almost from the start, as she sees miners die and then get up and start biting people in the hospital she works at. The bitten people in turn start doing the same. She just barely manages to escape with several co-workers she’d never met before and a little girl they manages to rescue from the pediatric ward. They make a break for it, however, the growing zombie horde is implacable, and every time the protagonists reach a safe spot, the zombies catch up and they have to move again.
It’s not the most original of set-ups, I’ll grant you that. In fact, a lot of the book almost seems like a checklist of various zombie tropes and stereotypes that had to be included to “count” as a zombie novel. Dead Tropics really isn’t trying to break new ground here. Heck, there’s even a brief scene at a mall. But, you know what? That’s just fine, because as you read the book you get the feeling that Edge is telling the story that she wants to tell and she tells it well enough.
I say “well enough” because a lot of the book is, to my mind, rather awkwardly worded. There’s really not much that’s grammatically incorrect, it’s mostly a matter of, I would have worded things very differently, had I been the one writing the book. It’s more of a preference thing than anything else, and a lot of that may deal with regional variations in language. Granted, there are some phrases she uses that are strange no matter where you’re from, (such as the zombie that “clenches it’s hands into claws,” which I don’t know how that would even be possible,) but those are few and far between. Really, my biggest complaint is that, aside from [main protagonist’s name here] all of the characters in the book seem interchangeable. They all talk in the same way, they almost all react to situations in the same way, and they all have the same impact on you. Which is very little. When a minor character was talking, I had to keep reminding myself of who they were and what they relationship to the protagonist was. That made it a little difficult to empathize with them when they died. In fact, I felt a lot more connection to a lot of the characters who showed up just long enough to die.
Overall, however, the book has a lot more going for it than it has going against it. The protagonist has the lion’s scare of screen time in the book, which softens the blow of the lackluster minor characters, there’s plenty of gore (if you’re into that sort of thing) and the books reads at a pretty quick pace. Heck, I almost felt the need to take a breather a couple times since the action almost never lets up. Even the slower scenes where the characters are planning their next move from a safe location feel fast. It was like running a marathon in book form. Whether that’s a positive thing or a negative thing probably varies from person to person, but at the very least, you won’t get bored reading this book. Plus, this book answers the eternal question that has plagued zombie fans for generations: Can a zombie beat a crocodile? (Read the book to find out.)
One other interesting part of the book that’s neither here nor there, but I felt was noteworthy, is that Edge is a mother, and it really, really shows up in this book. While zombie apocalypse fiction has never shied away from killing off children, Edge practically fixates on it. Don’t get me wrong, she’s not killing off kids for kicks, it’s presented as horror, and the parts where children are being killed or in danger of such are probably the most horrific parts of the book. As a parent myself, I would say that they are easily the most horrific and terrifying parts of the book. However, I can’t say if non-parents will see things in the same light. Still, I can see where she’s coming from. She set out to write a scary horror novel, and so she wrote in a lot of what, to her and most parents, would be the most terrifying thing imaginable. It worked.

Bottom Line: Dead Tropics is a solid book, and it’s probably worth your time to read it. You can find ordering information on its website,

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