Audiobook Review: Flesh Eaters by Joe McKinney

11 07 2011

Flesh Eaters by Joe McKinney

Read by Todd McLaren

Tantor Audio

Genre: Zombie Horror

Quick Thoughts: A fast paced zombie tale with well developed realistic characters, and plenty of action to please even the most skeptical of zombie fans.

Grade: B+

I have really enjoyed what Joe McKinney has done with his Dead World novels. Flesh Eaters is the third novel of The Dead World, yet unlike most series, it really isn’t a sequel or prequel. The Dead World is more like a shared universe than a true series, each book taking place at various points of time within the necrosis filovirus outbreak of McKinney’s World. Despite the shared world, each book is stylistically unique. Dead City was a first person, real time account of the day of the initial uprising in San Antonio, told from the perception of a police officer searching for his family. Apocalypse of the Dead was a third person multi-character tale of various groups of survivors, during the second wave of the zombie-like outbreak, who eventually come together at the finale, similar to books like The Stand and Swan Song. In Flesh Eaters, McKinney takes us back to the first wave of zombie uprising, in fact to the first moments of the outbreak itself. McKinney includes stylistic aspects of the earlier novels, telling a third person, real time tale of the flooding of Houston during a hurricane, and the initial outbreak of zombies. What I like is that McKinney has created a tableau with multiple story telling options. He hasn’t tied us down to particular characters or a specific narrative voice, but a setting with multiple stories to tell. While I am not sure whether he has more planned in this world, the world he has created has the potential to reap further story telling gold.

Flesh Eaters is basically the story of two families in the midst of flood riddled Houston attempting to find safety. Eleanor Norton is an Emergency Ops Sergeant with a husband and young daughter, and her boss, Captain Mark Shaw has two sons who are also members of Houston PD. Both characters are dealing with conflicts of performing their job and saving their families. This is the essential question of Flesh Eaters, how much are you willing to risk to perform you duty. At what point does the life of your own family outweigh the lives of the strangers you took an oath to protect. McKinney truly shows his maturation as a writer in Flesh Eaters. He takes a big risk by choosing to do a slow reveal on the development of his main characters, instead of instantly assigning the values of heroes and villains, and it pays off in a more nuanced character study.  As each piece of information about his characters is revealed, you truly understand their conflicted natures in a way you might not have if things were more obviously black and white. On top of his character development, McKinney offers some crisp action scenes that will please even the most skeptical of zombie fans. While I probably enjoyed Apocalypse of the Dead more due to it’s storytelling style, Flesh Eaters offers a more thought provoking, textured tale and gave us a realistic look at how different people, not good, or evil, just people, may react to a crisis situation.

Todd McLaren again narrates this tale with his usual professionalism and keen sense of pacing. I believe McLaren had more challenging material in Flesh Eaters than Apocalypse of the Dead, mainly because a significant portion of the tale was told from a female perspective. While McLaren did a good job of capturing the duality of Eleanor’s nature, being a mom and a cop, I think it may have been interesting to have a female narrator handle this tale, in part or in full. This is in no way a criticism of the job McLaren did, just a thought. With the almost real time nature of Flesh Eaters, McLaren was aptly able to present the action scenes with a clear yet tension building tone that worked well with this novel. Flesh Eaters was an impressive edition to the Dead World series, and because of its chronological position, probably an excellent place for new readers to enter McKinney’s world.



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