First published back in October of 2005 by Mundania Press, ‘Cobble' was one of the earlier post-apocalyptic zombie novels, which was jointly written by prolific short story writer Eric S. Brown and Susanne Brydenbaugh.

DLS Synopsis:
A plague has swept across the world causing the dead to rise and leaving humanity teetering on the brink of extinction.  However, a small pocket of survivors have managed to secure a safe haven for themselves upon the remote Cobble Island.  After having wiped-out every last zombie on the small island, the community of Cobble live in relative peace; away from the threat of the marauding dead that has overcome the rest of the world.

However, the sanctuary that the people of Cobble are enjoying is disrupted when a small military unit arrives on the banks of the remote island, declaring that the man they have with them, Dr. Paxton, may have the key to reversing the plague’s effects on the dead.  As such, the doctor needs to set up a lab on the island and begin his work right away.  And for that he needs children.

But the community of Cobble are far from willing to hand over their children and indeed much of the land that has become their home and saviour.  However, Captain Simon won’t take no for an answer.  Their mission is more important than the petty qualms and concerns of a few loud-mouthed locals.  And so, a very reluctant truce is formed between the two sides.  And the soldiers are left to do their work. 

But one such solider, Michael Drake, has been subjected to a series of haunting visions.  Nightmarish glimpses of a demonic beast hell-bent on bringing about the downfall of mankind.  And as the days continue to pass by, Drake and the rest of Cobble’s inhabitants gradually begin to realise that this ancient evil is real and has found its way to Cobble Island.

A battle for the very survival of humanity is about to play out.  In this apocalyptical setting, mankind’s fate will finally rest on just one man.  And around him, hell will be ravaging through the streets.  There is nowhere left to run.  Nowhere left to hide.  Cobble is the last place for mankind to reside.  And the last place for them to make their final stance…

DLS Review:
The tale jumps straight into the thick of the horror-antics from the word go, with plenty of undead thrills and spills served up from the start to get the mood properly set for what hopes to be a miniature-epic (a contradiction in itself I know) tale of zombie mayhem.  And certainly from the looks of the beginning few pages, the tightly packed novella seems like it’s not going to disappoint.

Soon enough, with the many residents’ conflicting views on how best to tackle the problem of supporting a community being aired, the resulting aggression and hostile feelings amongst the island dwellers quickly escalates, injecting the first flames of aggression into the tale.  The arrival of Captain Simon’s military mob just escalates the situation, until the zombie threat is just left lingering away somewhere in the background.

Characterisation throughout the novel is entirely hit and miss.  Some characters find themselves fleshed-out quite nicely (considering the short length of the tale), whilst others are left just as badly sketched cardboard cut-outs, acting out a designated role with little in the way of character interaction with what’s taking place. 

For such a short novella, authors Brown and Brydenbaugh have really crammed in as much as they can.  Not only with the various subplots and the sheer epicness of the plot, but with the volume of characters and conflicting sides, all fighting for their places in the tale.  Atmospherically the novel suffers from little time spent setting the scene and properly laying out the desolate ‘last-safe-spot-on-earth’ backdrop.  Here particularly the two authors have really missed a trick.  Such a small and significant location to hold this final battle should really have been made a particularly focal point for the novel.  Especially with the novel’s title being that of ‘Cobble’.  But alas, where the remaining survivors have ended up seems of little interest beyond a brief establishing of the location within the initial few pages.

Pushing the zombies to the side somewhat, the two authors attempt to inject a new(ish) angle to the zombie-apocalypse idea with a ‘The Rising’ (2004) / Monster Island’ (2004) /Twilight Of The Dead’ (2005) style of leading antagonist behind the zombie threat.  This works on some levels, with the finality of the battle being played out on Cobble Island adding much more impact to the storyline as a whole.  However, the whole ‘Good vs Evil’ side of the tale begins to slip away from that of ‘epic-apocalypse’ and instead began to feel rather amateurish and annoyingly clichéd.  Stephen King managed to pull it off within his lengthy novel ‘The Stand’ (1978), however attempting to cram in such a fundamentally stripped-to-the-very-bones war in such a short novella is, if I’m frank, rather ridiculous.

That said, I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy reading the novel.  Yes there are typos and grammatical errors tripping the reader up all over the shop.  And yes the ending is disappointingly weak and frustratingly misleading.  But all in all, the tale is still one that you can sit down with for an evening and get stuck into some good old fashioned undead fun.

It’s not the best offering in the genre, but it’s certainly not the worst.  The tale certainly has its moments, with scenes of rampaging undead that will get you perched on the edge of your seat; but it will also disappoint with its vagueness and over-reaching of the plot.

The book also includes a short bonus zombie story penned by Eric S. Brown:

And The Dead Shall Rise – 4 Pages
It didn’t seem to take all that long for the world to flip upon itself and become a very, very different place.  No longer was mankind the dominating species on the planet.  Humanity (or the “Breathers” as they were now being referred to) was almost entirely wiped-out by the new ruling species – the zombies.  And as such, Chris now found himself constantly on the run from the zombies.  But, as he watched the undead beginning their new lives around him, he began to see a new side to their kind.  Who would have thought that they’d become like this?  Who could have seen them becoming so civilised?  And now his time is almost up…

This interesting take on the final results of a worldwide zombie epidemic light-heartedly toys with the ideas set about at the end of Richard Matheson’s classic novel ‘I Am Legend’ (1954).  Indeed, soaked in a blood-filled barrel of black-comedy, this quick little stab at playing around with the whole ‘tables-have-turned’ concept produces an amusing little yarn, with a particularly predictable ending, but it’s still nevertheless a reasonably enjoyable read.

The novel runs for a total of 111 pages.

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