It’s not every day that I read a zombie novel I actually come away liking. I can literally only name a few, and the ones that I can name as ‘the best’, in my opinion, could be tallied up on one hand – one normal, five-fingered hand. And I can also say, without a doubt, that Carnage Road places right on top of the pile with a good, ol’ fashioned index finger-number-one. Not only does Lamberson score heavy points with the zombie crowd for crafting a truly original, organic, curious, and emotion-driven undead tale, but he does it with a well-practiced flair and swagger not often seen in this genre, and especially within this particular realm of horror fiction.
To channel Robert Frost for a minute:
Two paths diverged on a cracked and broken highway, and Greg –
Greg took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Boone and Walker, the last two members of the Floating Dragons motorcycle gang in Buffalo, set out to re-discover America during the zombie apocalypse. Their odyssey takes them to Ohio, Kansas, Hollywood, and a last stand in Texas. Along the way they learn just what happens when the federal government ceases to exist, and it isn’t pretty. The tea baggers get their just desserts because they ARE just dessert. Unfortunately, so is everyone else.
From the beginning, Lamberson lets the reader know exactly who’s in charge; breaking down the rules to his own zombie universe, and letting you know that he won’t apologize for what’s about to happen – all with his trademark pull-no-punches style and an authoritative voice that is getting stronger with every effort he puts forth. In fact, I’d hazard to say that this is the best piece of writing Lamberson has released yet, deserving to be nestled in with the best the genre has to offer. And we’re not just talking zombies here. Carnage Road is more than that. This is a road trip across America that just happens to have a shit-ton of zombies scattered throughout.
Lamberson’s main characters are strong as hell. There’s no other way to put it. They’re fully fleshed out, hard as nails, and still way more emotive than the scores of other characters populating the horror arena these days. While Boone and Walker are two of the toughest biker dudes I’ve run across in fiction, they’re also genuinely curious about life outside their own little shelter, know how to handle themselves in a wholly realistic way, and reserve the right to be scared out of their minds when appropriate – successfully destroying their tough-guy facade for the sake of realism. These two are certainly some of the most memorable and likable characters I’ve come across, immediately calling forth images of 1970s, leather-clad bikers, but with a more modern attitude that screams ‘fuck the system’, but with a whole new level of nihilism and aggression. This is, after all, the end of the world.
Lamberson (thankfully) sticks to the ever shambling foes that Romero and Russo so lovingly gifted to the genre, making the deaths fewer and farther between… when you get past the initial bloodbath… and the midway bloodbath… and the ending… okay, there are a lot of really gruesome deaths in this novella. More than you’d find in even the most epic of zombie tales, but it all serves to the greater good – Lamberson’s kills are never for the shock of it all. They drive the story forward, propelling the reader forward in a crimson arc of literary arterial spray. The contrast between Lamberson’s gory vignettes and his political digressions is incredible as well, lending so much more power to the brutal, carnal scenes of violence with the added weight of a scathing report of the ‘state of things’ in contemporary American culture. This author leaves no stone unturned, ripping into all forms of government, societal behavior, pop-culture, and just about everything not nailed down – and then some (folks who’ve read this novella know the scene I’m hinting at…) This relatively short, 100-or-so page novella, is absolutely filled to the brim with everything the thinking horror fan could possibly want. Even casual fans won’t be able to refute the fact that this is one goddamned powerful sum’bitch of a book. That’s for sure.
Another thing that really struck me is the cover design. With a simple blacktop, two yellow stripes, and a nasty splash of blood, Julia Sevin really knocked this one out of the park. The cover for a book is one of the most important things that goes into the process of completing a piece of work, and Print is Dead is continually offering top-notch visuals to accompany their stories. Even if I didn’t know who the author was, I’d pick this book up in a heartbeat.
Missing out on this novella would be a sin, plain and simple. Lamberson is in top form, crafting one of, if not the, best zombie story you’re going to read this year. Why this author doesn’t dabble in short fiction more often, I’ll never know. What I do know is this: Carnage Road is a blast from start to finish, and the wildest goddamned ride I’ve taken through the apocalypse in a long time.
Go grab yours from www.printisdead.com.