Zombiestan by Mainak Dhar
Read by John Lee
Length: 6 Hrs 25 Min
Genre: Zombie Apocalypse
Quick Thoughts: Zombiestan, with its international setting, non traditional zombies and fast paced action gives the zombie subgenre a fresh new spin and a novel that I feel can easily appeal to hardcore zombie fans and those new to undead literature. I will definitely be seeking out more of Dhar’s work, as well as broadening the international scope of my zombie reading choices.
Last year, I got schooled in an interview with Mira Grant. Well, not really schooled in a negative way, just educated. Before reading Feed, I had only really read one Zombie related novel written by a female author. I asked her about that, and she went on to tell me about other female authors writing about zombies. Since that point, I discovered a multitude of female zombie authors and read many, including works by Eloise J. Knapp, Jessica Meigs, Sophie Littlefield and others. Recently, I listened to Zombiestan by Mainak Dhar, and realized that almost all of my Zombie readings and listening have been by American and UK authors and set in those countries. While there is something comforting about a tale being set in places familiar to you, a change of setting can breathe new life into a genre. This is one of the reasons I was instantly drawn to Mainak Dhar’s Zombie Apocalypse novel Zombiestan. As someone who has listen and read a lot of Zombie Apocalypse novels, I am always looking for a new spin that can offer up a new angle on genre. Not that I dislike traditional zombie tales, I just feel mixing up anything, whether it be books, movies, or food, will keep things feeling fresh. I was unfamiliar with Dhar’s work before discovering the upcoming audiobook version on the Tantor website, and it reconfirmed my belief that Tantor is doing an excellent job bringing lesser known, independently published Zombie tales into the audiobook world.
In Zombiestan, Mainak Dhar takes a nontraditional look at the Zombie Apocalypse. After an air strike on a secret meeting of high level Al Qaeda leaders, Taliban soldiers searching through the rubbage get infected with the a strange pathogen. As they begin to travel, they spread the disease, which transforms them into raving animalistic killers. While they very much act like traditional rage zombies they retain some level of organizational memory and cunning. As the devastation ravages through Afghanistan and into India, an American soldier meets up with an aging romance novelist, a young gamer, and a teenage girl with her 2 year old brother. Zombiestan is a fast paced journey across a land full of lawless survivors and raging biters. Dhar uses classic post apocalyptic and zombie scenarios, yet puts an interesting new twist on them to create the rare novel in the genre that just seems fresh. While Dhar is not the first to use the motif of the changing and evolving undead, his biters have an added creepiness factor as they scream "jihad" and set up traps for the survivors. Unlike many zombie novels, the biters are a constant threat, and the survivors find no real safe refuge when they take to the street at nighttime. This constant pressure on the group pushes the tension and adds to the pace. If I had any complaints at all about the novel it’s that often, despite Dhar doing an excellent job developing the bond between the survivors, he felt the need to tell us they were bonding, which was really unnecessary. It seemed like at times he felt unsure he was getting his point across, so he needed to tell us what it was. But he had no cause for concern, because the situations he created for his group and their developing relationships were obvious enough. Dhar even managed to throw in a bit of romance, and made if feel right which is something that is hard to do in a fast paced apocalyptic novel such as this. Zombiestan, with its international setting, non traditional zombies and fast paced action gives the zombie subgenre a fresh new spin and a novel that I feel can easily appeal to hardcore zombie fans and those new to undead literature. I will definitely be seeking out more of Dhar’s work, as well as broadening the international scope of zombie reading choices.
John Lee is one of the top narrators in the business, especially when it comes to world spanning epics, and international casts. Lee brings his command of accents, and excellent pacing to Zombiestan, elevating the text in a way only the best narrators can. Lee captures the creepy feel of the biters, with their screams of “jihad” and ever present danger. Lee never rushes the story, allowing the authors pacing to push the narrative. He brings an organic feel to the dialogue, seamlessly slipping from one accent to another, which cannot be an easy thing to do. One of the reasons I was excited about this novel was that lee would be narrating, and he didn’t let me down at all with his performance. Zombiestan is an early contender for my favorite zombie audiobooks of the year, and one I hope gets the appreciation it deserves. Hopefully this excellent production will help create a new fan base for this promising independent author.
Note: A special thanks to Tantor Audio for providing me a copy of this title for review.