First published in its complete form back in July of 2004, the epic zombie tale entitled ‘SEAT: Special Echelon Anti-terror Task Force’ was a true labour of love for the somewhat amateur author J. Andrew Corbett. The novel was self-published in its somewhat weighty 578 page volume, and remained a little known treat for lovers of zombie and post-apocalyptic fiction, mostly due to a lack of online discussion and/or reviews. The novel has since been re-released in ebook format.
It all started with Dr Curtis Hodge-Beck’s research into a possible vaccine for the aging-gene. From the exploratory tests, and his 101 vaccine, a curious side-effect quickly revealed itself. The test vaccine was somehow reanimating the dead upon contact. And when one of his trusted colleagues released the airborne disease onto an unknowing population, the disease spread like wildfire. Within days people across the entire US were reporting symptoms of an unknown disease. The GRADS (Gradual Reanimation Acquired Disease Syndrome) was now a full scale epidemic.
Within a matter of days the disease that was resurrecting the dead spread across the entire globe, transforming the world into a place where mankind was now the hunted. With the dead roaming the streets, hungering for living flesh, mankind had been forced into a defensive position. And with humanity struggling to maintain a hold on its own survival, it’s suddenly down to specially equipped squadrons of highly trained fighters known as SEAT (Special Echelon Anti-Terror Task Force) to somehow help in clawing back a potential future for the living.
Their first mission in this terrifying new world is a reasonably straight forward search and rescue in Boca Raton, Florida where they are to locate and withdraw a hotshot Central Intelligence operative. Sending in three well-armed SEAT teams led by the highly trained Commander Leroy Hodds, Commander Sasha Vladosovic and Commander Alain Motumbo; the specially equipped commando units are thrown into the thick of the US zombie epidemic. Their training and discipline their strongest allies; the small commando units find themselves dropped into a bloodthirsty frenzy where survival is a constant fight.
From here on the SEAT units find themselves at the very frontline in a constant war for survival. The missions are becoming increasingly dangerous. The outcome never without its costs. Lives are lost and always the ranks of the undead seem to permanently swell. But there is much more out there than just rotting corpses after a pound of their flesh. The Atlanta Centre for Disease Control had been undertaking their own experiments. Fusings of dead flesh and machine, creating powerful juggernauts capable of taking down whole units.
The SEAT teams will face down countless enemies, fight untold numbers of battles and somehow remain victorious against all odds. Their missions are vital. Their success in each, paramount to the survival of mankind. And as they are taken across the globe to wage war against the undead enemy time and time again, the SEAT units will stop at nothing in the chance that there could one day be an end to it all. A chance for a cure...
From the roots of posting online zombie fiction on the forum for George A Romero's films and other such zombie work - homepageofthedead.com, Corbett decided to continue with the original name of ‘SEAT’ which the author had be using in his online fiction (possibly hoping for the continuation of reader loyalty) and produced this rather ambitious self-published debut novel.
Thrown straight into the post-apocalyptic scenario, the first few pages of the tale leave the reader blindly tip-toeing through the various unfolding events, unsure of what exactly is taking place. Once, the picture eventually becomes clearer, and the principal characters slowly start to establish themselves, the reader can begin to feel slightly more involved with the plot that is haphazardly forming. However, Corbett still holds back somewhat with pushing the tale onwards, instead plodding along at a much more meandering pace until finally we get to a position where the novel can start engaging with so zombie action
And when the storyline gets going, Corbett releases the undead mayhem and bubbling-over suspense in absolute abundance. Broken down into three separate sections, the novel details a vast perspective of an entire global zombie epidemic, with particular steering towards the troubled military response to such an outbreak. With definite similarities to the first few instalments of the online zombie journal ‘Alpha_Dog’ (2002 - 2008), Corbett submerges the reader into an intricate technical explanation of the outbreak. Indeed, for sheer military obsessiveness, Corbett's novel can proudly stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the likes of J. L. Bourne's ‘Day By Day Armageddon’ (2005). David Wellington's ‘Monster’ (2004-2005) trilogy is another possible influence with its similarly ambitious use of the entire globe for the backdrop to this complex and utterly elaborate tale.
Somewhat interestingly, all of these comparisons started off as online serial fiction, which were later published into hardcopy books…with the sad exception of ‘Alpha_Dog’ (2002 - 2008) which never made it to print.
With the vast expanse of the entire globe being utilised, Corbett reaches out further than the average post-apocalyptic tale, bringing the sheer global magnitude of the epidemic to the very forefront of the novel. Furthermore, Corbett's lust for military operations pores into each page, cocooning the tale in a precise and regimented atmosphere of open warfare on the zombie population. And it’s so very obvious that the author has a real passion for what he's writing about; totally immersing himself and subsequently the reader into the desperate situation of a dying world.
Characterisation is haphazard throughout; with character deaths lacking in any real impact for the reader, which I am sure was far from the author’s intention. It’s fair to say that no characters particularly stand out for quite some time. The various members of the SEAT teams are all made up from hastily named individuals, all of which the reader is bombarded with in the early pages, and no actual fleshing-out of hardly any of these characters ever seems to follow. This is perhaps the weakest element to the novel; dramatically effecting the impact particular scenes have on the reader as well as failing to create any bonds between the characters and the reader.
The general flow of the storyline also comes across as broken and incoherent; seemingly flowing along loose threads that simply takes the predominant plotline through the necessary hoops until it can reach a much more dramatic finale. That said, the book’s finale and then its final conclusion wraps the tale as a whole up neatly, whilst leaving suggestive elements still alive for a sequel if so desired (but which is more than likely never going to happen).
All in all, the novel is a reasonably accomplished read, with plenty of originality and imaginative directions taken. It delivers quite a unique global perspective to the zombie epidemic, which in itself is so seldom envisaged within similar novels of this popular subgenre. Bursts of inspiration are apparent throughout the book, but without having the well-structured guidance of a rigid storyline, the tale often feels quite directionless and lost within itself. With a full (and possibly quite brutal) editing and some general re-working, this novel could be made a lot tighter, which in turn would make it a much more successful read.
Nevertheless, this is a zombie apocalypse novel that still has plenty going for it, and one that should definitely have more readers than it has had to date.
The novel runs for a total of 578 pages.
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