Read by Michael Kramer
Length: 7 Hrs 52 Min
Genre: Zombie Apocalypse
Quick Thoughts: Flu is a strong opening move, yet serves more as a set up to Simmons world, then a complete tale. The true place of Flu within the genre depends highly on how Simmons follows this up. He has placed many pieces in the right positions, now he just needs to execute. Fans of darker moodier Zombie tales who prefer detailed character psychology over lavish zombie mayhem will definitely want to give Flu a shot.
I have considered many things when contemplating the upcoming Zombie Apocalypse. There are so many factors one needs to consider including location, provisions, routes of escape, climate, weapons, personal tastiness, protective gears, and presidential nominees. All these factors can contribute to your zombie survival game plan. Yet one thing I have never considered was history. As Americans, we have a much shorter span of history to consider. There are conflicts in America, often down racial, sexual or class lines, but it pales in comparison to the multigenerational century spanning historic conflicts that exist in other countries. How one would go about surviving the Apocalypse in Serbia, where religious and ethnic conflicts spanning centuries are quite different than an American like me whose biggest conflict is with the neighbor who never cleans up his dog crap. While I may not go out of my way to protect this neighbor due to his lack of neighborly consideration, our families have not been warring with each other for longer than my known relatives have been alive. Flu by Wayne Simmons is set in Ireland. History is a big deal in Ireland. Sometimes I think American forget how much strife exist in that one small country. There is a history of mistrust, abuse and violent action that many American’s forget about. So, how would an ex-member of the IRA respond to the governmental attempts to isolate and contain a zombie outbreak? How would a soldier who worked at suppressing the IRA respond during an Apocalyptic scenario to a former IRA member he encounters? Its questions and scenarios like this that adds levels to Wayne Simmons Zombie audiobook.
As someone who consumes a lot of Zombie fiction, it’s really hard to find a totally unique zombie outbreak scenario. Flu starts off with a lot of traditional zombie outbreak scenes. A devastating, completely lethal Flu is spreading across Ireland. The Government responds through quarantine, and creating camps to isolate the uninfected. Yet, when the infected dead begin to rise, seeking human flesh to consume, the country is thrown into inescapable chaos. While a group attempts to survive among the chaos, a shadowy military installation is observing the ruins of their country, searching for a solution, no matter what the cost. It’s all pretty standard boilerplate zombie apocalypse. Simmons throws in a few interesting twists. The Flu itself is more of an ever present threat than we see in many zombie novels. Just because someone has survived to this point, doesn’t mean they won’t come down with it. This element adds a bit of paranoid suspense to the overall mood of the novel. There isn’t just the fear of the undead, or the potential to be infected by direct contact. The Flu could actually be airborne, meaning anyone can catch it without even being bit by a zombie. This piles on the psychological distress of the novel, creating a mood that is more psychological thriller than straight horror. Simmons fills the characters with natural distrust, often pitting unlikely pairs together, like older brutish men with younger women, cops with criminals, then throwing in the historic mistrust of authority of the Irish. With these elements, Flu becomes a broody, moody character study, a dark path through humanities inner most prejudices, complicated by the extreme apocalyptic scenario. The Zombie action itself comes in smaller doses, but well conceived and executed. Simmon’s zombies so far are pretty traditional. There are hints of evolution and some interesting spins, like an obsession with fire, yet for the most part they are the shambling Romero style zombies that I find especially scary. Simmons also has some moments of horrific gore, yet it’s not gore for gore sake, but truly serves a purpose. Each scene is displayed to show the psychological affect on the survivors. One interesting theme Simmons uses with his characters is how a horrific event like this can make a good man do horrible things, plus provide redemption to the corrupt. Overall, Flu is a strong opening move, yet serves more as a set up to Simmons world, then a complete tale. The true place of Flu within the genre depends highly on how Simmons follows this up. He has placed many pieces in the right positions, now he just needs to execute.
Michael Kramer narrates Flu, and initially I had mix feelings about this. Kramer has always been a hit or miss type narrator for me. He’s a professional who has a great sense of story, and has a strong, deep voice. Yet, that deep voice limits him in many ways, particular in characterizations. Being set in Ireland, I would have loved to seen an Irish narrator like Gerard Doyle take on this project. Kramer does a pretty authentic sounding Irish accent, but uses it strictly for his characters. The narrative prose is read all in his default, accent neutral voice. Despite this, I though that Kramer’s voice was a decent fit for the mood of the tale. While I would have preferred an Irish narrator, Kramer gave the story a decidedly creepy feel. He reads Flu with a deliberate style that allows the listener to follow the story. His characters were decent. The delineation between characters wasn’t that great. He basically had a pretty standard Irish accent, and softened it, or hardened it, changing cadence and rhythms to delineate the characters, and it worked pretty well. His male characters were definitely better than his female characters, which is expected with a narrator with such a deep voice. While it may not have been the ideal match, Kramer makes it work. Fans of darker moodier Zombie tales who prefer detailed character psychology over lavish zombie mayhem will definitely want to give Flu a shot.
Note: Thanks to Tantor Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for review.
This Review is part of my weekly “Welcome to the Apocalypse” series.