First published between September of 2004 and February of 2005 by way of a free online serialised novel, US author David Wellington’s second instalment into his ‘Monster’ zombie apocalypse trilogy was entitled ‘Monster Nation’.  Following the release of the final book in the trilogy ‘Monster Planet’ (2005), all three books went on to be published in hardcopy for the first time in 2006.

DLS Synopsis:
It’s just another normal summer’s day in California, when from out of the blue a crazed man suddenly bites an innocent passerby in the street.  The wounded woman runs into the nearest building for help, finding it to be a trendy Oxygen Bar.  After calling for the police, the woman takes advantage of her surroundings and inhales some of the high-inducing oxygen.   Oxygen that courses through her bloodstream, maintaining a constant supply of this vital element to her brain.  Unbeknown to her, a process that an ex-medical student named Gary will shortly be discovering will prevent the extensive damage to the brain that is typically suffered after the body succumbs to the undead virus.

Meanwhile, the Colorado National Guard has been assembled to investigate a possible biological weapon outbreak in the ADX-Supermax Prison in Florence.  Captain Bannerman Clark is duly sent straight to the scene of the epidemic in order to properly assess the situation.  What he finds is chaos spreading like wildfire.  Men and women are literally tearing each other apart, reverting to acts of savage cannibalism.

Elsewhere, an inspector for the National Institute of Health named Dick Walters, is working his way up the Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado to investigate a possible infectious outbreak in sheep.  Upon arriving at the farm, Walters is shown the real problem that they, and soon enough the whole world, will be facing.  In a nearby abandoned mine, a horde of ravenous zombies are trapped behind the heavy gates.  Walters quickly realises that this is no normal viral outbreak.

Back in California and the bite-victim from the Oxygen Bar has been rushed to hospital by the two reporting police officers.  Upon arriving, they find that the hospital is in absolute pandemonium, with attacks from infected corpses bursting up everywhere.  With no recollection of who she is or why she is here, the young woman adopts a new name for herself from a chocolate bar wrapper.  She now calls herself Nilla.

Outside the chaotic hospital and Captain Bannerman Clark has just arrived to witness the full degree of the erupting madness.  And with the full force of the National Guard behind him, Clark watches as Nilla walks untouched and unmauled out from the zombie infested hospital, and into his direct line of fire.  But just before Clark has the young woman ‘dropped’, her complete physical body suddenly disappears into thin air.

The ancient Celtic mummy Mael Mag Och is now at work.  The dark powers that are raising the dead are everywhere.  It’s a new dawn for the death of the world.  And Mael Mag Och is feeling the power surge through him.

After witnessing nothing short of a miracle, Clark decides that he won’t rest until he’s tracked down the undead woman who seemingly evaporated right before his eyes.  But Nilla has other plans.  She’s had a vision of a powerful figure beckoning her, and now has a plan to head eastwards to Colorado.

But in a world turning to hell, there’s always something waiting around the corner...

DLS Review:
For the follow-on to the first book in the trilogy entitled ‘Monster Island’ (2004), Wellington’s second instalment is if anything, more imaginative, more inspired and takes the new zombie apocalypse angle to even further untouched areas.   Going back to just before the viral epidemic first hit, the novel runs at an almost parallel timeline to that of the first book, with only the odd character (such as the powerful antagonist Mael Mag Och) making any joint appearance in both books.

With the introduction of another addition to the undead who has managed to keep almost a full degree of her mental capacity (although her memory has been pretty much wiped), Wellington is able to develop a hell of a lot more along the theme of the mysterious ‘dark energy’ that seems to be controlling the mounting zombie hordes.  Indeed, rising to the challenge, Wellington gets stuck into some elaborate degrees of storytelling, utterly embracing the opportunity to set down some key details on explaining the ‘dark energy’.

Like with the first book, the tale’s structure follows three separate character-driven threads, which gradually merge towards a final point that brings the book to an end.  Furthermore, the distinct segmenting of the storyline certainly helps to keep the pace and energy fresh and flowing at a constantly purposeful pace.

Wellington (somewhat bravely) pushes the storyline into ‘dark fantasy’ territory, with the plot-changing decision to have one of the newly introduced principal characters being able to induce a particularly handy invisibility.  In doing so, Wellington’s post-apocalyptic zombie premise has entered new ‘supernatural’ ground, exploring areas that can easily (and have) put a considerable proportion of the zombie reader-base off.

However, what Wellington loses in reader numbers, he gains in respect from those that can identify the important exploratory place these books are having in this constantly growing (but hardly ever evolving) subgenre.  Indeed, at almost the very same time, US author Brian Keene was touching on very similar themes within his novels ‘The Rising’ (2004) and its sequel ‘City Of The Dead’ (2005).

What’s perhaps most enjoyable about Wellington’s ‘Monster’ serious is the unpredictability and stark originality of the work.  The reader never knows where the author’s going to take the tale next, or what weird and mindboggling avenues he will explore en route to the dramatic conclusion of the three books.  You really get the feel that almost anything can happen and nothing can be taken for granted or is completely set in stone.

Although Wellington’s ‘Monster’ series have proven to be the ‘love-it-or-hate-it’ Marmite-esque additions to the zombie apocalypse subgenre – I nevertheless still urge every fan of this particular avenue in horror to give the books a damn good try.

The novel was followed on in May of 2005 by the first chapter of the final serialised book in the ‘Monster’ trilogy – ‘Monster Planet’ (2005).

The novel (in its printed format) runs for a total of 362 pages. 

© DLS Reviews

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