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

DLS Synopsis:
In her blistering hot and increasingly hostile homeland of Somalia, Mama Halima has brought together an impressive degree of regimented control amongst the ensuing chaos of the zombie apocalypse.  Solely down to her powerful leadership and uncompromising command, Mama Halima has built herself a devoted army of young Somalia girls who collectively go by the name of ‘Mama Halima’s Glorious Girl Army Of The Free Women’s Republic of Somaliland’.

However, as ex-UN Weapons Inspector Dekalb and his daughter, Sarah, are about to discover, Mama Halima’s army is far from a protective band of survivors looking out for their fellow man.  Instead, after Dekalb and his daughter run into the savage and uncaring army, Dekalb finds himself in a whole heap of trouble.  Thankfully, his daughter is quickly put in Mama Halima’s favour by being both female and of a partial African origin.  Dekalb on the other hand, needs to prove himself to the strong-willed Somali woman or else find himself cast onto the piles of burning zombie corpses that the militia leave in their wake.

But Mama Halima has a life threatening problem.  Her powerful rule could be brought to an abrupt end soon if she doesn’t find a cure for her illness.  She has AIDS.  Luckily, from his employment within the UN, Dekalb might well be able to locate some medicine for the Somali which should prolong her life.  And so, with his daughter Sarah now a hostage for Mama Halima, Dekalb sets off across Africa and Europe to find the medicine that he needs to get his daughter back safely.

After coming up with nothing, Dekalb knows of one final place where the medicine could still be - in a UN complex located in New York City.  And so, Dekalb, together with a band of Mama Halima’s well equipped troops, sets sail for New York under the command of Ifiyah and her second in command Ayaan.

Meanwhile, in the zombie infested urban cesspit of New York City, ex-medical student Gary has begun his own medical experiments into the cause of the zombie epidemic.  After slicing and dicing a good handful of the undead to explore the causes and symptoms, Gary comes to the theory that it is a sudden lack of oxygen to the brain between death and reanimation that causes the zombies to become nothing more than a braindead walking shell of their former selves.  And so, confident of his understanding, Gary kills himself whilst connected up to the medical equipment that will keep oxygen flowing through his body.  And in doing so, Gary awakens without a heartbeat, cold and without any feeling to his flesh, but in full possession of his mind.  He has become the first zombie to be more than a mindless flesh-hungry walking corpse.

Back with Dekalb and his highly equipped militia escorts, the cargo ship that they have crossed the ocean in pulls into a service dock on the edge of New York City.  From here the band are greeted by waves of the undead.  Their first glimpses of this once powerful nation, now awash with flesh-hungry zombies.  And so their fight through the streets of New York City to the deserted UN complex begins.

However, there is far worse than just hordes of the undead at work out there.  The ancient Celtic mummy once known as Mael Mag Och has awoken to the sounds of the undead.  And through his powerful dark influence, he has begun to control the mindless zombies lumbering around the landscape.  Under his control, Mael Mag Och will unleash all hell and finally bring the world to its end.

The battle is only just beginning...

DLS Review:
Being an online serialised tale, you expect to see some strong evolution and a considerable amount of interesting meandering to the storyline – but nothing prepares you for Wellington’s highly inventive and altogether original take on the zombie apocalypse scenario.  Forget the usual rules, the standard urban backdrop and the typical small handful or survivors trying to get out of ‘the city’.  Nothing about Wellington’s ‘Monster’ trilogy is in any way clichéd, done before or indeed remotely predictable.  Zombies and the whole zombie apocalypse premise has suddenly been redefined, reworked and completely turned on its head.

So what have we got instead?  Well, to start with we have a lot more unlikely and immediately much more interesting characters.  Wellington purposefully avoids going overboard with the intricacies of in-depth characterisation, and instead allows the characters’ actions and responses during the first quarter (or so) of the novel to define who they are and set their individual places within the grand scheme of things.

The plot, like with the rest of the novel (and indeed the whole trilogy) is intriguingly elaborate and multi-layered, with Dekalb’s personal agenda in getting his daughter back at the very forefront of the tale.  Nevertheless, the inclusion of Mael Mag Och and indeed the new intelligent zombie in Gary, along with his gradually developing personality, brings in another set of wholly interesting layers to the tale.

No doubt because of its original short segmented offerings as an online serialisation, the tale keeps together a quick-fire snappy pace, with plenty of action always going on around every corner.  There are typically three parallel running threads to the story playing out alongside each other throughout the length of the tale, ultimately keeping the thrills and spills coming from all angles.

Okay, so the zombies have been pretty much reworked.  Wellington not only wanted to take the idea further, but he also clearly wanted to make it more demanding, and in doing so – much more impactful.  Instead of just hordes of flesh-hungry zombies, we now have reasoning behind their hunger.  It’s not just about flesh; it’s about consuming the actual essence of life.  And life can be found in more than just human flesh, but that of animals and plant life too.  And so the marauding undead have become an unstoppable force, hell-bent on consuming all life on the planet.  Furthermore, with a dark puppeteer guiding them, an army is slowly rising from the chaos – an army that could quite easily crush those remaining and bring the world to an end.

Although utterly magnificent in its concept and daring originality, ‘Monster Island’ isn’t without its faults.  At times it does suffer from a feeling of slipping onto a directionless path, with occasional bursts of stunted or misfiring pace.  One thing leads to the next, which leads to the next, which in turn leads to the next, all of the way through; but not always with much of a clear goal in mind.  Sometimes on a purposeful course, sometimes derailing and brought back on track with some quick manipulative writing.  But who cares really?  Suspend disbelief and get stuck in with some colourful and utterly captivating zombie literature.

The novel was followed on in September of 2004 by the first chapter of the next book in the ‘Monster’ trilogy – ‘Monster Nation’ (2005).

The novel (in its printed format) runs for a total of 378 pages. 

© DLS Reviews


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