First published by way of an online fictional blog back in 2007, Spanish author Manel Loureiro’s debut novel ‘Apocalypse Z: The Beginning Of The End’ formed the first part in the author’s ‘Apocalypse Z’ series.  Following on from the popularity of the lawyer / ex-TV writer’s fictional blog, the work went on to be published into book format in Spain first and was then later translated into English by Pamela Carmell for its publication in Britain and the US in October of 2012.

DLS Synopsis:
For a thirty-year-old lawyer living just a mile or so from the small town of Pontevedra located in the northern Spanish region of Galicia, the news that was emerging from Russia had gotten him worried.  Having lost his wife in a tragic car accident two years ago, his doctor advised him to begin writing a blog or diary to help with his therapy.  And so on Friday the 30th December, he began his online blog, detailing his growing fears at the stories unfolding from Russia.

It all seemed be taking place in the republic of Dagestan in Russia.  Reports of a strange outbreak of a highly contagious disease, possibly a strain of the West Nile or Ebola virus, were beginning to emerge across the news channels and internet sites.  The Centres for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) were duly sent in to investigate.  Later that same day, those very same teams were rushed to a secured base in Ramstein, Germany.  Something very wrong was happening in the area.

Back in his house, our increasingly concerned blogger had just decided to have solar panels installed into his home to save on the rising energy costs.  Together with the 10ft high walls that surround his property and the well-stocked dual chest freezers in his basement, unknowingly his home had become a safe and secure haven unto itself.

And when the news begins to deliver unbelievable reports of the dead resurrecting and returning as flesh-eating zombies capable of terrifying aggression and relentless violence on the living, all of a sudden his home was one of the most secure places in the area to hole up in.  Within a matter of weeks, outside of his 10ft stone walls, the undead had made their way into the area.  Mass evacuations of all the citizens were quickly instigated.  Supposed Safe Havens were erected and swiftly established across Spain and the endlessly growing number of other affected regions in the world.

Within days the epidemic was totally out of control.  Hiding away in his secured home with just his Persian cat, Lucullus, as company, he watches as the whole world around him goes to hell.  He finds that his neighbour, Miguel, also remained hidden away in his own property, over the other side of their adjoining walls.  But Miguel was becoming increasingly agitated with staying put.  And it’s not long before he takes matters into his own hands and leaves the relative security of his home.  A move that ends before it really got started.  And ends in absolute tragedy for him.

After a month since it all started in Dagestan, and our blogger’s internet access finally dies.  Moving over from a blog to a journal, he realises that he himself can’t stay where he is for much longer.  And so the young lawyer at last leaves, what had until now been his own personal safe haven, and sets off with Lucullus to the marina on Orillamar Avenue where he hopes to take a boat out to somewhere where the undead can’t get to them.

But outside of the walls of his property, the world has become a terrifying and increasingly hostile place.  The Safe Havens have all fallen to the growing armies of the undead; continuously adding to their dominating numbers.  And as he makes his cautious way across the desolate streets of Galicia, he will find himself confronted with horrors that will change him forever.

It’s now fight, flee, hide, or be killed.  The streets run red with the blood of the fallen.  The flesh-hungry dead are everywhere and you never know who you can trust.  The world is dead and rotting and there’s almost nowhere left to hide...

DLS Review:
Setting off a zombie-apocalypse novel with a misquotation from George A Romero’s classic film ‘Dawn Of The Dead’ (1978) doesn’t exactly bode all that well for the novel.  However, this particular faux pas turns out to be not a particularly true reflection on the quality of the zombie tale within.  Indeed, it’s presumably down to the inherent problems with translating text from Spanish - in the case of the quote in question, it had no doubt been translated from English, to Spanish, and then back to English again.  Furthermore, on numerous occasions within the book, the story stumbles over words and phrases which is again presumably down to the problems in translation.  However, much of this could have been hoovered up prior to publication.  However, sloppy proofreading and bare-bones editing has left in a great deal of grammatical errors as well as recurring typos and similar such mistakes within the text.  It’s a shame, but one that can luckily still be corrected on future printings.

I suppose the first thing that should be mentioned about Loureiro’s novel is that it doesn’t really tread any new ground as far as zombie-apocalypse novels go.  Indeed, the whole blog/journal format with detailing the events that led up to the end of the world and indeed the narrator’s life afterwards, has been utilised in a number of similar tales – most notably with ‘Day By Day Armageddon’ (2004) and the online zombie-apocalypse journal ‘Alpha_Dog’ (2002 - 2008).  Furthermore, the storyline itself is remarkably similar to that of a thousand other similarly themed novels such as ‘Down The Road’ (2005), ‘I Am Legend’ (1954) and the ‘Autumn’ (2002) series; as well as movies such as Zack Snyder’s remake of ‘Dawn Of The Dead’ (2004) and Danny Boyle’s ’28 Days Later’ (2002).

Loureiro utilises the first-person-perspective of our unnamed blog/journal writer, keeping each entry furiously short and snappy, as well as always having something of worth happening within each.  If nothing of any real interest takes place during a particular period, then our narrator will not write an entry.  This keeps the tale firing on all cylinders from the outset, with plenty of action and nerve-jangling twists and turns in each impactful chapter/entry.

Like with David Moody’s ‘Autumn’ (2002) novels, our principal protagonist is a particularly normal everyday guy whose confronted (as is everyone else) with the collapse of mankind and the monstrous resurrection of the dead.  The resulting emotional strain of the whole crushing situation plays a major role within the tale, with our scared and desperate narrator having to learn how to survive within this increasingly dangerous new world as he goes along.

And again, like with so many zombie novels, it’s not just the walking corpses that you’ve got to look out for.  Fellow survivors can be pretty nasty pieces of work too.  And it’s hard to know who you can trust when you’re in the thick of a hellishly dangerous decaying world.  And the dog-eat-dog nature that the characters are forced to adopt really hits home like a sledgehammer to your face.  Indeed, it feels like an all too real blueprint of how people would react to the horrifying turn of events being portrayed.  Loureiro details the fall of one of the Safe Haven’s in a terrifyingly realistic fashion; very much in tune with the vividly detailed events within Max Brooks’ ‘World War Z’ (2006).  In a nutshell, the whole tale is pretty hard-hitting with a heart-wrenching realism towards a very human response.

Characterisation of our narrator is incredibly well-developed through the detailed passages of the emotional turmoil that he is being put through.  Loureiro uses the Stephen King technique of making his protagonist modelled (maybe only loosely) on himself.  It’s often about writing what you know and it’s a technique which certainly helps in making the characters believable.  And so, quelle surprise, our blog writing narrator is a young Spanish lawyer.  And he turns out to be one of the most believable characters that you are likely to come across in such fiction!

The action in the novel is pretty intense from start to finish, with something always lurking around the next corner – usually wanting to take a great big chunk out of you.  The inclusion of Lucullus, our narrator’s Persian cat, helps to draw further similarities to the likes of ‘I Am Legend’ (1954), ‘Alpha_Dog’ (2002 - 2008) or the like.  And as the novel progresses, the character/pet relationship brings in another angle for the reader to build strong emotional bonds with the narrator.  It has to be said that Loureiro uses every trick in the book to make those all-important connections with his audience.

After a rip-roaring read of desperation and viscously hard fighting in order to survive, the novel draws to a intense finale, which bears many (somewhat surprising) resemblances to the ending in James Cameron’s film ‘Aliens’ (1986).  But Loureiro doesn’t just pack up his bags there.  Quite the opposite in fact.  Instead Loureiro wraps up this first book with an intense and utterly satisfying final few chapters that end the novel with strength and a respectable stamina, whilst laying down the beginnings for his next instalment to continue on with.

And so, all in all, the novel is an absolutely triumphant success.  What it lacks in originality, it certainly makes up for in pace, action, characterisation and nail-bitingly gritty atmosphere.  It’s crammed to the rafters with twists and turns, always with plenty going on, whilst utilising an intelligent human response to the devastating events taking place.

In a nutshell – if you like your zombie-apocalypse novels, then this is one you won’t want to miss.

The novel runs for a total of 397 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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