Garden of Eden
bookends history, as does
the Rise of the Dead.
The post-apocalyptic story is the most human story. I mean human, that thing positioned between ape & alien, that piece of evolution where bipedalism & thumbs & a reasonably large brain & tool usage all come together. A pinpoint moment in time, after all the "well, how do we define language? How smart does australopithecine have to be to count as Homo?" & well before things like "well, does cyborg theory mean that we've already passed the threshold on being mechanical chimeras? Are we exponentially approaching the Singularity?" nonsense. To be human, where the questions of what it means to be human are moral & psychological, not ethical & existential & not anything crazier. Utopia is a place you might try to get to-- whether or not it is real, or--like the cake-- it is a lie. There is a spread between the advanced tools of humans-- cars & guns, for instance-- & the more primal stuff like axes & hammers. The cost is in blood, & death-- articulate & gut-level instincts. It is the story of the Ice Age, told again & again-- what if the human species was almost gone? Hanging on by a thread? Who would you be? What would you be? Zombie Armageddon is a particular brand of it, & popular. Zombies are a wonderful Other. They look human, but they incontrovertibly aren't. Anyone could become one. They define Human by their existence. Are you a zombie? If not, then you are one of Us. If you are one of Them the only choice is death. Kill or be killed. Like I said-- basic. Savannah Human. You have a weapon & a tribe & you have to fight to survive, to be the fittest.
I wonder about desensitization, & about taboos. Chopping people up is horrific, even if they are the undead. Maybe especially if they are. That being said, you can shake that off. Heck, I dissected a human corpse with a several other students. Prosected, actually. Whatever the difference is. I've pushed adiposed flesh through a sieve, & yeah-- I can tell you that you can get inured to things. Like sanitation workers, or the people who change the little blue cakes in urinals. I am guessing they think to themselves-- "hey, urine is actually fairly clean." They just turn on the part of their brain that says "actually, the place with all the scary bacteria you should be frightened of is the kitchen sink. That stuff is nasty." At least, that is how I'd do it-- which probably says something about my approach to stress, too. Desperate appeals to reason. The protagonist of this novel is something similar. I won't say she's a polymath of end times skills, but she sure ain't no slouch. In a short period of time she becomes proficient at ending the unlives of the damned, & doing the same to humans when those dark deeds need doing. Her evolution is above all believable, right down to her fairly rotten aim with a gun. Madeleine Roux manages to never make the post-zombie world comfortable, while making it plausible along the way. The characters don't forget that it is the end of the world, but the do cope with it.
Allison Hewitt is Trapped seems like an everything & the kitchen sink approach to storytelling at first blush. It is a zombie novel, check. It is told in blog form, check. She's trapped in a bookstore, check. Frame story, check. (I have to confess-- the very last two pages, the back end of the frame, really charmed me.) Enough hooks there to make a coat-rack, but don't be fooled-- it gels together, & ends up being a fairly innovative zombie story. Sure, one woman's journey, yadda yadda, internal conflict juxtaposed against external threats, whatever. What sold me is the simple fact that I couldn't tell where the story was going to go next. Is this "feel good" moment going to be spoiled by the supporting character being killed, or are we going to get to have it? Is that narrative thread going to be clipped short or snarl into the larger story? Is the new character going to betray them? Save them? Neither? Is someone going to get killed for emotional oomph? Is the search for a safe haven a pipe dream? Will it end with everyone dead? Are hopeless martyrdoms going to happen? Will the bad idea pay off, or get everyone killed? Will those crazy people be good guys or villains? The trick to this story is that Roux gets you to suspend your disbelief & plays against genre tropes & the readers expectations with the very novel trick of writing a story. She isn't out to subvert anything or explode the medium, but she's also not writing a cookie cutter version of a tried & true recipe. She just writes a novel. Sounds crazy, right?