First published back in September of 2016, British author Terry Grimwood’s novel ‘Deadside Revolution’ offered up a completely different take on a gritty zombie apocalypse.

DLS Synopsis:
It all started some eighteen month ago.  From then onwards, nothing would ever be the same again.  The dead no longer stayed dead.  The risen corpses now dominated the cities.  Their constantly swelling numbers outweighing those of the living.

The majority of the living were sent to the Flesh Farms.  Food for the Dead who would feast on live meat at their fancy restaurants.  Those who had the skills to assist the Dead in some way were kept alive to live out their remaining days in servitude.  They were known as the Vitally Skilled.  The lucky ones.  Maybe.

Consultant Cosmetic Surgeon - Dr Robert Lewis – was one such Vitally Skilled.  He lived with a small cadre of medical staff, imprisoned in the Harley Street Compound, where he and his assistants worked tirelessly at keeping the Dead from further deterioration.  Skin and organs were delivered to the compound once a week.  The grim materials of their trade.  Lewis never allowed himself to wonder where the living skin came from.  He couldn’t think about such things.  His work was all that was keeping him and his assistants from the farms.

Lewis’ life was one devoid of any happiness.  Since the dead rose, and his beloved Caitlin was taken away from him, his entire world had crumbled.  His existence nothing more than one wallowing in a pit of misery and self-loathing.  And he could see nothing but despair ahead.

And then a message arrived.  It’s not often the Living are given permission to leave their respective compounds unescorted.  It’s a request that should not be declined.  However, when Lewis arrives at the property addressed in the invite, he finds it deserted other than a cryptic note that had clearly been left for him.  A message that instils the faintest sense of hope in his worn down heart.  But it’s a lead that will see him thrown into a world of escalating violence and horror.

A war in Hell has been spilling over into our world.  The fallen angel Azazel is in revolt.  But Azazel needs a human vessel in order to fully infiltrate our world.  An empty body, for which he can take as his own.

Pockets of Living around London are rising up against the Dead – fighting back against their oppression.  Half Dead have joined the ranks of the resistance.  Dead who managed to hold on to something of who they once were.  A slither of their old self.  A memory of life.  They may be faint, but shreds remain.

With Lewis caught in the very eye of the storm, the revolution against the Dead has now finally begun…

DLS Review:
The zombie apocalypse is a well-used premise these days.  In fact, if you browse through all the horror titles from the last few years, either online or in a bookshop, you’ll no doubt come across a vast wealth of novels utilising the zombie apocalypse premise.  Indeed, in recent years the horror genre has become flooded with rotting flesh, as vast swathes of writers attempt to capitalise on zombie fictions recent surge in popularity.

The end result has been an undoubted complete and utter saturation in the market of zombie novels, many of which (if we’re honest) simply churn out the same old tired plots.  However, every now and again a zombie title comes out that completely breaks the mould – throwing down a thick slab or originality and taking the zombie genre in ingenious new directions.  Terry Grimwood’s ‘Deadside Revolution’ is one such novel.

From the very outset the tale feels noticeably different from your run-of-the-mill zombie apocalypse plot.  Where your typical zombie story consists of marauding mindless zombies aimlessly wandering across the landscape, constantly searching for flesh, instead here you have zombies who have maintained the majority of their intellect, it’s just that death has changed their perspective and demeanour.  All of a sudden the Living are being treated more like slaves or animals; farmed for their flesh or kept alive purely for their skills.

But it’s not just with the massive change in temperament and the mental capacity that’s maintained by the undead where Grimwood’s novel differs.  The plot is one of a social uprising, a dystopian world where the Living are no longer the rulers, rather than a straight-cut post-apocalyptic zombiefest.  Instead of blood and guts and isolated desperation in an undead world, Grimwood has produced a more complexly layered offering, violent but thick with social commentary – weaving in religion, politics and class war.

What you get from all of this is a convoluted tapestry of carefully layered ideas and suggestions.  The social commentary behind much of the storyline is painfully pronounced.  There’s a clear thought pattern going on and more than a few nods towards a vague agenda at play.  But, whether to the detriment of the tale or not, it all seems to become lost somewhere in the overall quagmire of what’s going on.

The story’s principally set in the decaying streets of London, in which the few remaining Living hide away in pockets of resistance, or are otherwise imprisoned as slaves in their respective compounds.  On the streets the Dead go about their business, leaving the city to slowly rot away around them.  When violence breaks out, vicious mutations known as Scythers wade in, slaughtering all those in their way.  London’s much feared Commissioner of Law – a loathsome antagonist named Reeder – spreads further fear across the city.  And then there’s Azazel – the disgruntled fallen angel – who’s presence in the grand scheme of things is overarching yet never really at the forefront of the action.

Weirdly the characters don’t actually play all that much of a dominant part in the overall story.  Yes their roles are integral to the plot.  In particular our protagonist, Robert Lewis, who we follow from the start to the eventual (and hugely dramatic) conclusion, plays an absolute key role.  Nevertheless, you can’t help but feel that they’re all still simply tools for telling the tale.  Their lives don’t matter in the grand scale of things.  Their all just cogs in the machine of the novel’s plot.

To this effect it’s reasonably evident that the characterisation throughout the novel is sadly lacking.  Lewis is by far and away the most fleshed-out of characters, however, there’s still barely a connection with the reader.  The struggle he goes through feels real and gut-wrenchingly evocative, however the impact this all has on the character is missing.  It’s like he’s an empty shell.  A cardboard cut-out of humanity.

However one thing that Grimwood pulls off to absolute perfection is the constant feeling of pulse-racing urgency which cannons the storyline onwards at a-mile-a-frigging-minute.  Barely a page goes by where you’re not flung from one desperate struggle to the next.  Absolutely nothing comes easy in the tale.  Everything is fought for, tooth and nail.  It’s bitter, it’s bloody, it’s drenched in hurt, betrayal and frustration.  But from this smog of oppression rises up a revolution that can’t help but instil a powerful sense of rebellious pride in you.

Reading ‘Deadside Revolution’ will push you down into the gutter, only to pull you out of the grime and straight into the chaos of the Living’s uprising, time and time again.  It’s urgent and packed with more action and interwoven layers than you know what to do with.

For a read that will keep you engaged and desperately wanting to keep reading on, you can’t go far wrong with Grimwood’s vision of a fucked-up dystopian world where the dead have risen to become the new dominating masters.  Yeah, it has its faults.  It misses the mark with characterisation and fails with truly immersing the reader.  But in its place you get a veritable cacophony of ripped-raw emotions and a hard-boiled narrative that thunders on like an out of control locomotive.

The novel runs for a total of 277 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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