The First Days begins with an unimaginably horrific sequence; arguably one of the most memorable – and disturbing – scenes I’ve ever experienced in a zombie novel (and that’s saying something!). Jenni, a disillusioned wife and mother trapped in a marriage with a physically abusive man, wakes up to find her zombified husband consuming their three-year old son (…she found Lloyd, hunched over Benjamin, eating away her baby’s tender flesh.”). After rushing outside in her nightgown, Jenni watches as her now undead family wildly tries to escape the house to get at her:
“The fingers pressed under the front door of her home were so very small. She could not stop staring at those baby fingers straining frantically to reach her as she stood shivering on the porch…”
Fatefully rescued by a woman driving by – an attorney named Katie whom minutes earlier witnessed her own beloved wife Lydia become one of the undead – the two very different women escape the bloody chaos around them and go in search of some kind of sanctuary. What they find is a world gone absolutely insane, civilization in a matter of hours completely destroyed.
But as the two emotionally shattered women fight to stay alive, they begin to draw strength from each other and, shockingly, find a semblance of hope as the “funeral of the world” continues.
Although the humor is obviously understated, there were some sequences that were just priceless. Here was one of my favorites:
• Before setting out on a potentially dangerous expedition to a nearby library, Jenni says, “Want to go by McDonald’s for a McGriddle?”
There is definite social commentary at play here and a healthy dose of zombie-powered pop culture references as well – but, for me at least, the thing that makes this novel so remarkable is Frater’s ability to draw the reader in to the minds of the two protagonists and experience the end of the world – and the beginning of a new one – through their eyes.
Can of Dinty Moore beef stew not included.
Paul Goat Allen has been a full-time book reviewer specializing in genre fiction for the last two decades and has written thousands of reviews for companies like Publishers Weekly, The Chicago Tribune, Kirkus Reviews, and BarnesandNoble.com. In his free time, he reads.
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