First published back in November of 2008, ‘The Breathing Dead’ formed British author Aaron M. Esmonde’s debut publication; tapping into the recently reawakened popularity of the zombie subgenre. The book is a short novella that proudly pays homage to George A. Romeros contribution to the genre.  Later in March of 2011 the novella was re-released in e-format as part of a collection alongside the additional short tales ‘Blood Hunger’ (2010) and ‘Dead Pulse (2011).

DLS Synopsis:
The world is now a desperate and hostile place to exist within.  The empty streets are overrun by vast numbers of the flesh-hungry undead; hunting down those that still remain, hungering for their warm flesh.

Sam, an ex-lorry driver, has been holed-up on his own in a deserted school for a number of months; isolated and left to survive the horrors  rampaging through the streets outside.  That is until, Jane, an ex-military scientist whos responsible for developing a cure for the zombie virus, comes across Sam within the secured premises of the school.

However, after being cooped-up in the school for too long, Sam decides they should leave the relative safety of the building to go in search of a more stable community of survivors. His frantic search leads him to a fellow survivor named Jack who has struggled through hell to stay alive so far.

Meanwhile, the military are playing out their last days in command with a final rescue mission in the hope of securing the life of the Vice President. But when the mission appears to fall to pieces, Frank Marshall falls back on some final and rather drastic measures in attempt to limit the numbers of the undead.

However, Sam, Jane, and a remaining member of a renegade group named Karen, find themselves caught up in the military
s final measures. Survival it turns out, is not just about keeping out of reach of the flesh-hungry zombies...

DLS Review:
Running for just 69 pages,
‘The Breathing Dead’ is a remarkably short novella that manages to cram in a veritable tonne of action whilst steering itself through a reasonably well-constructed storyline.  Indeed, Esmonde doesnt let up on the pace from the moment the first zombie is slaughtered; maintaining a non-stop race through the decaying streets that are now overrun with the shambling undead.

Unfortunately characterisation throughout the novel is weak to non-existent. Obviously somewhat limited by the short length of the tale, Esmonde has instead opted to concentrate on a more entertainment-rich storyline rather than being bogged down with a character driven tale. However, this does dramatically affect the supposedly sentimental deaths within the novella; each one sparking little to no impact upon the reader.

Furthermore, the writing style is particularly clumsy throughout, with a number of annoyingly obvious grammatical errors that throw the reader out of the storyline on each one of these all-too-frequently frustrating occurrences. For such a short novella some further proof-reading is desperately needed to keep the tale flowing without such annoying stumbling blocks.

Likewise, as the tale gets underway, Esmonde frequently loses track of the need to build up a scene with any hint of a description, which only leaves the reader plummeting outside of the tale once again.  Indeed, whole sections soon become clumsy and poorly constructed, as if the story was merely sketched-out and left at that.

That said, for a debut release Esmonde has nevertheless done well - obviously taking on a subject matter that he takes a great amount of pleasure in writing about. However, the actual storyline still remains very unoriginal and simply panders towards a fanbase that will hopefully lap up any such zombie-inspired post-apocalyptic plots.

It
’s a bit of a shame that Esmonde didn’t play around with the so-called ‘rules behind the recently risen undead in order to add a flare of originality, which would have in turn allowed his novella to stand out that little bit from the pack. Instead were left with another zombie tale that merely plays out the usual storyline in a somewhat safe attempt to please the average fan of the subgenre - admittedly whilst satisfying the authors own love for the undead.  Although aside from its almost overbearing flaws, Esmonde has produced a very fast-paced and action-packed novel which will if anything keep you entertained for a solid half-hour or so.

Also included within the short book (no doubt by way of bulking it out somewhat), whilst also (hopefully) whetting the appetites of the readers, are snippets from two potentially forthcoming novels. The two tasters are for
You Are The Final Version and To Die A King. The first of these is a sci-fi horror cross-over with an intriguing post-apocalyptic premise. The scenario is quickly established within this nine page snippet, offering up a glimpse into the tales potential for a well-thought out and entertaining read.

The second excerpt is for
To Die A King which is less promising, with Esmonde quickly becoming bogged down with laying down the initial premise of the tale. Furthermore, the character roles and general plot establishment is delivered in a clumsy fashion, taking the reader away from the tale within the first few pages. Esmonde completely fails to capture the readers imagination at all from this overly complex scenario breakdown, offering up a weak and counterproductive eight page taster for what could ultimately have been an enjoyable novel.

Like with the main tale, these two snippets are littered with grammatical errors that show an amateurish and poorly executed publication. Hopefully, if these two additional tales ever see the light of day, then the proof-reading will be of a much higher standard.

The book as a whole runs for a total of 110 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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