Read by Michael Kramer
Length: 8 Hrs 51 Min
Genre: Zombie Apocalypse/Pandemic
Quick Thoughts: Fever is a brutal, frightening, kinetically paced apocalyptic thriller that takes it cues from some of the greatest works of the genre, yet Simmons keeps it feeling fresh and new. Combined with Flu, Fever is one of the notable entries of Zombie literature of 2012, and very well may find itself achieving classic status among fans of the genre. If Flu left you unsure of Simmon’s world, Fever will eradicate any doubts.
I have to admit, I was a little unsure about Fever by Wayne Simmons. I enjoyed Flu, the first book of the series but I also said that my overall impression and its place in the pantheon of great zombie literature was highly dependent on where Simmons moves the series. Then, of course, I made the rookie mistake of browsing some reviews and summaries of the book before listening. Nothing specific in the critical analysis of the novels had me worried, in fact most were positive. What concerned me was that people were calling Fever a prequel to Flu. Now, I have nothing against prequels, but my concern was that I was interested in seeing where Simmons was taking the tale, and not how it began. Sure, I love a good zombie outbreak and pandemic novel, but Simmons already had me pretty well sold on the characters and left us with a significant cliffhanger. I wanted to know what was going to happen next. Second novels in series are already problematic to begin with. Typically, it involves the expansion of the world, and is often a bridge novel to further entries in the series or setting up a conclusion. It is rare for a second novel to be better than the first. It has a role to play, but either some of the shine is stripped from the original, or it is so preoccupied with its role that it neglects any sort of congruent story telling. Yet, when people were calling Fever a prequel, it really did have me concerned. Luckily, I discovered that Fever isn’t a prequel novel, in the strictest sense, but an all encompassing tale that bookends the occurrences of Flu, giving us more back story on the world, introducing us to new characters all while picking up the ends of Flu tying all the pieces together seamlessly.
Fever is a novel told in three main parts. The first story gives us a glimpse at the original outbreak within a shadowy government lab in Ireland. This part is a claustrophobic, yet moody psychological zombie thriller full of danger and betrayal. On its own devices, the opening works as a short story, while creating more depth to the world Simmons is building. Then Simmons moves is into a pandemic tale reminiscent of the opening sequences of Stephen King’s The Stand. Here Simmons introduces us to a bunch of new players, struggling in a world or paranoia and obligation. The strength of this part of the story is the relationships between the characters. Simmons relationships are always complicated, creating tension that only explodes within the high stress environment of an apocalyptic event. While many of these relationships are untraditional, like a deaf man dealing with his unfaithful wife and her overbearing father, and a homosexual man trying to find safety for himself and his ex-wife who still feels betrayed by his coming out, there is at essence a recognizable humanity to all these characters that isn’t always easy to watch. As we move into the thirds part of the novel, where Simmons begins to blend the new characters in with the retuning players from Flu, we are thrust into a violent zombie apocalypse that bears a likeness to Brian Keene’s The Rising, one of the classics of the genre. It’s fast and furious, and no characters is safe as the one group tries to keep themselves safe from zombies and a corrupt government agency, all while trying to untangle the secrets to the outbreak. Simmons offers a lot of game changing revelations in this part, yet never allows the pace to slow in order for you to contemplate the implications until the novel comes to its brutal conclusion. What Simmons does is highly impressive. He not only expands his world, but takes the potential of Flu and increases it exponentially. Fever is a brutal, frightening, kinetically paced apocalyptic thriller that takes it cues from some of the greatest works of the genre, yet Simmons keeps it feeling fresh and new. Combined with Flu, Fever is one of the notable entries of Zombie literature of 2012, and very well may find itself achieving classic status among fans of the genre. If Flu left you unsure of Simmon’s world, Fever will eradicate any doubts.
Like Flu, I am still not 100% sold on Michael Kramer’s narration, but it is professional, well paced reading and his signature voice adds a tone of creepiness to the overall tale. While Kramer doesn’t really enhance the experience of the novel, neither does he distract, which is saying a lot because Fever definitely has its challenges for a narrator. One of the biggest challenges is bringing Shaun’s voice to life. Shaun is a deaf Irish man whose voice often was something others either ridiculed or used as an excuse to diminish or simply dismiss the character. At first, I found Kramer’s interpretation a bit robotic. While I struggled with the chosen voice for Shaun early, I thing as the character began to crack under the pressure, Kramer did a great job presenting the emotional turmoil of the character while staying true to his chosen voice. While I still feel I would have liked an Irish narrator, or at least one who could give the prose an Irish lilt, Kramer did a good job with the challenges presented.
Note: Thanks to Tantor Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for Review.