Michael Thomas Ford
HarperTeen, 2010, 276 pp., $16.99
Z, a novel by Michael Turner, takes place in 2032, approximately fifteen years after a rare strain of the flu virus inexplicably turned large numbers of humans into zombies. Equipped with flamethrowers--apparently one of the few defenses known to work against zombies--a band of fighters known as the Torchers successfully thwarted the walking dead, bringing about a close to what became known as the zombie wars. For Josh's parents, the memory of watching loved ones succumb to the disease remains all too painful. Their son, on the other hand, is too young to recall the event, and, in spite of their protests, he persists in playing a virtual-reality zombie hunting game that places him in the role of a Torcher whose job it is to burn 'meatbags'. When Josh unexpectedly discovers that Charlie, a fellow gamer with unparalleled skills, is a girl, he is mildly surprised. He is even more surprised, however, when she invites him to participate in a real-life version of the game, one that he naively assumes pits players against cybernetic zombies. As he delves more deeply into the underground gaming community into which Charlies leads him, however, Josh discovers that appearances are deceiving, and what began as a game quickly escalates into a battle between life and death.
Z marked my initial foray into the realm of zombie literature, and I felt no small degree of trepidation as I prepared to read it. I have to confess, however, that I enjoyed the book, as evidenced by my finishing it in a day. Upon reaching the end, I was disappointed to discover that there was no conclusion, at least not in the traditional sense. Rather, the novel appears to constitute the first installment in what I assume will be a series. Then again, given the money authors and publishers potentially stand to make on series books, I suppose I should have expected that would be the case. While Z doesn't compare with some of the other titles I've reviewed in recent weeks, it is a fun read, and I suspect that readers who are interested in gaming and all-things zombie will enjoy it. At the very least, it offers sufficient gore to enthrall most adolescent boys.