Thursday, 13 August 2015

Rotter Nation by Scott M.Baker (2015) - Zombie Book Review

Rotter Nation is the sequel to Rotter World released back in 2012. For me that book took a while to get going, though by the end I was hooked as it had a thrilling final third reminiscent of Day of the Dead. The Rotter series takes place in a world over run with zombies, but in a twist there are also vampires in this world, albeit only a handful left. There are bound to be spoilers for Rotter World here as a warning.

Rotter Nation takes place exactly where World ended with the group of humans and vampires returning to their base after having successfully (though at no small cost) gained a working vaccine against the undead virus. However upon arriving home they discover the base in ruins and the vast majority of the people who stayed behind murdered at the hands of a brutal gang. On discovering that one of their people; a young woman named Windows was kidnapped by the gang, Robson (now the defacto leader) decides he is going to attempt a rescue. The Angels; a bunch of female soldiers led by Robson's new love Natalie meanwhile are given an important task, they are to transport the zombie vaccine across America to the government in exile said to be based in Omaha.

This is a hell of a good book, from the get go it had my attention managing to carry on the momentum of the ending of World and just building upon that. The plot is more focused this time around, less world changing but more intimately important and it works. Nation is split up into three different story lines. The first following Robson and his group as they try to discover what has happened to Windows.

With the first book in the series the sheer amount of characters you get introduced to initially was bewildering, the fact that so many are removed really helps the story flow better. I never imagined Baker would kill off so many characters in such a cruel fashion. My second issue with the initial book was getting my head around the notion of vampires in a zombie filled world, their inclusion seemed mostly silly to me and I rolled my eyes at a few parts of the vamps in action. With only two blood suckers left now their inclusion is much less jarring, they take almost a back seat with even the main characters seemingly forgetting about them for a time. There is only the one action sequence involving these two but when it comes it is all the better for it, this more realistic world (as realistic as you can get in a book about a reanimating virus) should make Nation more generic but it does enough with the inventiveness of the plot to stay well above the median line.

The second storyline involves Windows and her treatment at the hands of the gang she has been captured by, unfortunately rape is a key part of the gangs ethos and her and many other woman are sickeningly used. These parts of the book were very unpleasant to read, World featured a bit too explicit a sex scene but at least that involved love, here the rape scenes go in to enough detail to let your imagination fill in the blanks, it even made me feel sick on a few occasions. On the plus side this really does set up these criminals as the books antagonists, especially with their sadistic leader Price. These people make the governor of The Walking Dead fame seem like a saint.

The final storyline follows the Angels on their mission to deliver the vaccine. This part of the book was a lot more brief than the others seeming much more like a sub plot. I enjoyed Bakers decision to have the events of the end of World destroy the morale of this unit, that was something I found to be quite interesting. These sections are all pretty great but deciding to end the book with what is essentially a sub plot when there had already been a thrilling resolution for the other two story lines seemed an odd choice.

With a reduced cast there was still some issues for me of certain characters not being fleshed out, I confess towards the end when a couple of Robson's people may or may not be killed I struggled for a moment to even work out who they were, the central cast are given all the limelight with side characters just really being names on a page to me for all I actually knew about them. The same goes for the Angels, it is only really Natalie who has any character, the rest just seemed to be a series of names and so when any of them died I didn't really feel anything at all. The bad guys though are fantastic, all given personalities and made memorable. Meat, Price, Carter all conjure up images in my mind, makes the plot more satisfying.

The same trick of short snappy paragraphs is used to make the action seem all the more exciting towards the finales, both of these were very exciting to read, thanks to the visuals created by Baker's descriptions of the events happening. Hordes of undead, gunfights, explosions and car chases all hit the mark, his descriptions of the shambling dead also delight once again with lots of close range zombie attacks as well as desperate situations occurring, even a few plot twists that I did not see coming.

I loved Rotter Nation, it was a huge step up from Rotter World and rather than be merely interested in what happens next I am excited for it. A great use of set pieces mean there is never a dull moment here, a very solid zombie book.


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