Read by Cassandra Campbell
Length: 11 Hrs 49 Min
Genre: Zombie Apocalypse
Quick Thoughts: The First Days is an action filled, fast paced tale of a Zombie Apocalypse, that gives its props to Romero but also adds its own unique spin on the genre. Despite having my next few audiobook selections mapped out, I was very tempted to start the next book in the trilogy, Fighting to Survive, right away.
I have had a sort of End of the Year serendipity in my audiobook selections. I really don’t do much long-term planning for what I am going to listen to, but I usually have about three choices mapped out for a week. Lately, it seems like when I plan my week, one of the novels I choose receives some sort of end of the year acclamation. This week, as soon as I choose The Last Days, the first book of Rhiannon Frater’s As the World Dies Zombie Apocalypse trilogy, it gets named by Barnes & Nobles as one of the best Zombie novels of 2011. Although I didn’t agree with everything on the list, I would have loved to see books like Raising Stony Mayhall or Warm Bodies on the list, I did agree with one of its main points, women totally rocked the zombie genre this year. Authors like Mira Grant, Madeleine Roux, and Eloise J. Knapp put out some of the best, most original zombie fiction in a long time. Not only was The Last Days listed among a lot of excellent novels, it was one of the highest ranked on the list. Of course, having already decided to listen to the novel, I could pride myself, once again, in my excellent taste in zombie fiction. Of course, despite the acclaim, I needed to listen to it before patting myself enthusiastically on the back.
The Last Days starts off right smack in the middle of the initial zombie uprising. We initially meet a woman named Jenni is perhaps one of the creepiest opening scenes of the year. She escapes from her home, where her husband has turned zombie and infected their children and meets Katie, a prosecutor who barely escaped the escalating zombie violence of an anonymous city in Texas. From the opening scenes, you just knew you were in for a unique tale, yet one grounded in enough classic zombie mythology to keep us fans of the undead comfortable. Frasier allows us to follow Katie and Jenni through a nightmarish zombie landscape as they attempt to find Jenni’s stepson Jason, and safety from the zombie hordes. Eventually, Katie and Jenni end up at a fortified town, and begin preparing for the long haul as they interact with the community. I love the pacing of this novel, which is full of harrowing near catastrophes and complex, yet well plotted action scenes. Frater adds such texture to the novel with her two heroines, Katie, the strong, seemingly self assured women, and Jenni a codependent women from an abusive relationship, who may have lost it. Yet, in many ways, the women switch roles throughout the novel. Jenni is less stoic, and externalizes her reactions more than Katie, which instantly has the men labeling her crazy. Yet, I found her reaction much more genuine then most Zombie tale heroines, and loved the inner strength she exhibits, even though those around her fail to acknowledge it. I found these two women reminding me somewhat of Mary Hope and Rachel Morrow from A Gift Upon the Shore, one of my favorite Post Apocalyptic novels. Frater does a better job than most with handling the variety of reactions among survivors. Everything in the novel was so well done, I didn’t even mind the romantic subplots. The only complaints I had in the novel was, as part of a series, I didn’t get any sort of closure, and I found the character of Travis to be a little too perfect. I mean, I’m a straight guy but even I started crushing on this highly competent, open minded resourceful Texan. The First Days is an action filled, fast paced tale of a Zombie Apocalypse, that gives its props to Romero but also adds its own unique spin on the genre. Despite having my next few audiobook selections mapped out, I was very tempted to start the next book in the trilogy, Fighting to Survive, right away.
I really liked narrator Cassandra Campbell’s narrative voice and pacing of The First Days, but I had some small issues with her overall performance. In the beginning of the novel Frater uses a lot of internal dialogue to build the characters of Jenni and Katie. While their external vocalizations were quite distinct, when they were thinking to themselves the narrator didn’t create distinctive inner voices, so it became a bit confusing. Also, I would have loved a little more flavor on the accents of the characters. This took place in Texas, but any attempt at an authentic Texan accent was muted. I also didn’t get a strong Hispanic tone in Juan’s characterizations. Yet, Campbell did read in a clear and often beautiful voice that gave the prose a poetic flair that in some ways made up for her flaws in other areas. Whatever problems I may have, The First Days made for a wonderful listening experience and should definitely be added to the reading and listening piles of Zombie enthusiasts.