Apocalypse Z: The Beginning of the End by Manel Louriero
Read by Nick Podehl
Length: 11 Hrs 31 Min
Genre: Zombie Apocalypse
Quick Thoughts: I think Apocalypse Z: The Beginning of the End has enough going for it that those who take infrequent forays into the zombie subgenre may enjoy it, but for those of is who true obsessive zombiephiles, it will seem like a pale copy of better tales of the undead.
Despite what some may think, I don’t consider myself a Zombie expert. What I do think is that, comparatively, I am pretty well read within the Zombie genre, particularly within the Zombie Apocalypse aspect of the genre. This year, I have listened to 34 audiobooks where Zombies are the major theme, which make up a bit over 15% of my total reading. This doesn’t include a book like Leviathan Wakes, which has brief scenes involving vomit zombies, but is basically a space epic, or books like Gil’s All Fright Diner or Death Warmed over, where zombies is one of a pantheon of mythical creatures. The reason I bring this up, is right now, I am at the stage where I am sort of balancing my love of the subgenre, with the fact that I may have over indulged. With 2012 coming to an end, I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss any really good Zombie and Post Apocalyptic novels before I started compile all my year end lists. Yet, I wanted something a bit different than the typical Zombie fare. I had a few Zombie novels coming up from series I enjoy, so the typical Zombie Apocalypse feel was covered. Scanning the many Zombie novels available on Audible, I ended up selecting two that I thought seemed unique. The first was The Reanimation of Edward Schuett, which I reviewed earlier and loved. The second was Apocalypse Z: The Beginning of the End. I choose Apocalypse Z for one reason. It was written by Spanish author Manel Loureiro and takes place in Spain. Ever since listening to Zombiestan earlier this year, I’ve been looking for Zombie novels with international settings. I truly hoped this would give the book an interesting twist over the everyday Zombie tale.
It starts with rumors of a strange disease in Russia, and then spreads into global panic. One man, a lawyer in a small coastal Spanish town, documents his struggles from the first days of the rumor, until the discovery that the dead are rising and attacking the living. Now this lawyer, along with his cat must travel through a devastated land looking for a place of safety. Apocalypse Z: The Beginning of the End is a fast paced, Zombie journal style novel that fails to stand out amongst the wide field of the genre. There is nothing blaringly wrong with the story but for a writer declared a best seller in three countries, and the Spanish Stephen King, Apocalypse Z was a basic by the number zombie tale. I was hoping for something more with this tale. Despite its international setting, this novel both stylistically and thematically has a been there, done better feel to it. Its style is reminiscent of JL Bourne’s Day by Day Armageddon without the military themes. There were things I did like. I like that the main character survived pretty much by luck, and maybe a touch of ingenuity. I like that that main character wasn’t some stoic Alpha male, but showed that the situation was devastating him emotionally. I like that the main character had a cat, and risked his life repeatedly to keep it safe. Yet, none of the things that I likes made up for the cookie cutter plot, or lifeless feel of the overall narrative. The Zombie mythology was pretty standard, the Post Apocalyptic situations uninspired, and while full of action, it came in dull waves instead of a consistent storm. While I appreciate the desperation that Louriero built into his main character, his thought process was often to scattershot and inconsistent to provide any sort of driving force to the book. Being that it was written in an almost blog like style, this internal inconsistence really hurt the voice of the character. Our main character couldn’t even decide what to call the zombies often switching his chosen name for them within the same paragraph. I think Apocalypse Z: The Beginning of the End has enough going for it that those who take infrequent forays into the zombie subgenre may enjoy it, but for those of is who true obsessive zombiephiles, it will seem like a pale copy of better tales of the undead.
Nick Podehl is a wonderful narrator, and as always brings the text alive with his voice. I have no complaints with his technical performance and I feel he did a great job capturing the emotional fragility of the main character. That being said, there was an obvious directorial decision that seemed to bleed the international flavor from the audiobook. While listening, I posed a question on Twitter about whether or not a narrator should attempt a Spanish accent for a Spanish character in a first person tale set in Spain. I got two interesting responses. While narrators and industry people seemed to believe that no accent is better than a bad accent, most novice listeners seemed to believe some accent should have been attempted. I believe there could have been a middle ground. First off, I have listened to plenty of Nick Podehl narrations and I believe he could have pulled off a consistent accented narrative voice that would have given the audiobook an international feel without being annoying. Also, there where other things he could have done, with the rhythms and cadence of his voice that could have captured that flavor even if he chose not to go with an accent. The way the novel was read, its setting was more Akron, Ohio than coastal Spain. The fact is, this novel was a journal written in the first person by a Spanish character, and Brilliance is a big enough company that I believe that if they didn’t think Podehl was able to give it this feel, then they could have brought in someone who did. This is why I don’t blame the narrator. I believe it was a directorial choice by the company. I believe someone thought that a Zombie fans wouldn’t embrace an audiobook read in a non-American accent. And maybe, they are right. I hope not, but it’s a possibility I can’t ignore. Yet, I was disappointed. I found that my hopes for a Zombie novel with international flavor was instead just another zombie tale that could just as easily been set in the next town over from me.
Note: Thanks to Brilliance Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for review.