Thursday, July 14, 2011

The First Days - Rhiannon Frater


About the book

Rhiannon Frater’s As the World Dies trilogy is an internet sensation. The first two books, The First Days and Fighting to Survive, have won the Dead Letter Award for Best Novel from Mail Order Zombie. The First Days was named one of the Best Zombie Books of the Decade by the Harrisburg Book ExaminerAmerican Horror Blog calls Rhiannon Frater “a writer to watch.”

The morning that the world ends, Katie is getting ready for court and housewife Jenni is taking care of her family. Less than two hours later, they are fleeing for their lives from a zombie horde. 

Thrown together by circumstance, Jenni and Katie become a powerful zombie-killing partnership, mowing down zombies as they rescue Jenni’s stepson, Jason, from an infected campground.

They find sanctuary in a tiny, roughly fortified Texas town.  There Jenni and Katie find they are both attracted to Travis, leader of the survivors; and the refugees must slaughter people they know, who have returned in zombie form. 

Fast-paced and exciting, filled with characters who grab your heart, The First Days: As the World Dies is the beginning of a frightening trilogy. 

352 pages (paperback)
Published on: July 5, 2011
Published by: Tor
Author’s webpage

Thanks to Tor for sending me a review copy of this book. 

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There are a few things I couldn’t care less about, even if I tried hard: 1) Self help books written by preachers who look like they might be pedophiles. 2) Anything that has to do with sewing or knitting or any of the “fiber arts”. 3) Zombies. Thus, you can probably see how I was surprised with myself when I accepted the book The First Days by Rhiannon Frater. The First Days was a book my husband actually accepted on my behalf because, as he put it, “if you review books, you have to READ books that might not seem interesting to you at first.” I hate to admit it, but the man is right.

I started reading this book as soon as I got it in the mail. I figured that I could plow through it and get some form of torture over with quickly. What surprised me was the fact that I actually started to enjoy the book once I got into the swing of it. The First Days is filled with enough action, adventure, personal and relationship elements to almost make the zombie part of things a nice addition to the book, but not a central part of it.

The idea that humans are fighting zombies to stay alive is far from new, so Frater had to add other elements to The First Days to make it stand out from the multitude of other plots out there that, on the surface, seem to be exactly like this one. The First Days is highly character driven and what makes it stand out above other books of the same ilk is the fact that the two main protagonists are female who kind of fall together after an interesting series of events. Jenni is an abused woman who watched her children be eaten alive while Katie is a lesbian lawyer who almost was eaten by her wife.

Frater’s writing is a bit wooden at the start. The world building sits second fiddle to the characterization, which is understandable in a character-driven novel. That being said, Frater seems to iron out her style as the novel progresses. Her writing becomes more fluid, and while I never felt that she fully crossed the line from “tell the reader” into “show the reader” territory, she did make a good try at it and often toed the line nicely. While I haven’t read the rest of the series yet, I do predict that her writing just gets better with each subsequent book. Despite the fact that the book does seem to suffer from some repetitive situations and unrealistic dialogue, her style did improve immensely from the start of The First Days to the end of it.

However, a lot of the plot elements in The First Days were incredibly predictable. It is rather obvious from the outset that the two protagonists are going to turn into amazing strong-women on their journey through Texas. Furthermore, each character does seem to become aware of their one special trait which became almost overused throughout the novel. While the idea of “one special trait” is a good one, it’s not new and has been used in plenty of fantasy and science fiction novels before this one. Some readers might find the characters hard to become emotionally invested in due to these elements.

Where Frater shines is how she addresses the emotional impact a zombie outbreak would have on those who are left to suffer through it. While I didn’t find every situation believable, it doesn’t change the fact that The First Days is unique in the sense that it is very emotionally compelling in some parts and thus, thought provoking. There are some romantic elements which may or may not be slightly nauseating and/or unbelievable, depending on the reader, but aside from that, the emotions Frater fills The First Days with are raw and powerful.

The First Days reads like how I would imagine a television show to read. The writing is rather wooden and the characters and world do lack a depth that I really missed throughout the book. Furthermore, much of the action and dialogue is rather repetitive and unbelievable. However, despite all of this, The First Days is a good action/adventure zombie thriller filled with plenty of raw emotion and two female protagonists that many will find relatable. All in all, this is a “fun” novel rather than a horrifying one, but no less enjoyable for that. 

3/5 stars

1 comment:

  1. The book REALLY sucks. Why, you ask? Let me count the "sighs"...The overuse of this word as well as the overwhelming redundancies are just one of the many reasons. As you pointed out it is EXTREMELY repetitive, contains completely unrealistic scenarios, and the dialogue is AWFUL. Frater uses the lesbian angle in order to push an agenda, and then bashes the reader over the head with it. The characters often make snarky remarks at the most inappropriate times, and it was very frustrating to read. The zombies and action sequences take a back burner, and she focuses on trivial things like jealousy and romance; the LAST thing anyone is going to be concerned with during a zombie outbreak! There are also lots of spelling and grammar mistakes. Combined with the rest of the problems with this book, it is a wonder that TOR even published it. The other books in the trilogy only get worse. This is not recommended reading for any true fan of horror, or the zombie genre.

    If you're interested, you can check out my blog where I have created a parody of this book entitled AS THE WORLD SIGHS. I bet you find it much more enjoyable, and better written than the original.

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