Saturday, April 14, 2012

The First Days (As the World Dies - A Zombie Trilogy 1) by Rhiannon Frater

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.

 Review:  The First Days is a suspenseful, scary and often gory ride through the world of post-zombocalyptic Texas.  I was consumed by this book from the very first page where Rhiannon Frater does an extremely god job at making the reader visualize the horror that is taking place.  

So small. So very, very small. The fingers pressed under the door of her home were so very small.
From the very beginning, Frater takes the reader on a heart-pounding adventure as the book's two female protagonists, Jenni (with an i) and Katie, run for their lives.  Something has happened in the state of Texas.  Someone was infected with the "zombie" virus, and everyone who is bitten turns into a zombie.  The zombies have no feeling, no intelligent thought and the drive to eat live, human flesh.  As this books opens, Jenni has run out of her house while her husband and children are trying to eat her.  By only luck and circumstance, Katie is driving by, fleeing the city in a truck, and rescues Jenni from the horror she is witnessing.

After Katie and Jenni initially escape the town they live in, it is clear to Katie that Jenni is suffering from shock.  Jenni doesn't speak much and seems very timid.  We find out soon enough that Jenni is a battered housewife, and is sick over the death of her two children.  Jenni immediately bonds with Katie, and looks to Katie as her savior and protector.

They were alone, detached from the rest of the world. Since this was how she often felt, it was almost comforting.  Besides, she was sure Katie would figure things out. She looked strong and very capable.

Katie is the strong, intelligent and beautiful lawyer that takes charge of the rescue mission from the get go.  Kate has lost someone very dear to her, but is strong enough to continue along the path to safety.  She feels that it is now her job to keep Jenni safe.  Katie has no problems running over zombies or with the new world's violent nature.  She understands that in this new world, it's either kill or be killed.

She had just run over a woman and reduced her to road kill.  And yet, she had no regrets.  In this new world, violence was the way to redemption.
Katie and Jenni have many close calls with hoards of zombies, but eventually make it to a couple of survivors holed up in a hunting store.  Nerit and Ralph, an elderly couple, give the women access to guns, ammunition and a more concrete truck.  Jenni's step son is in danger at a camping site and Jenni makes it her mission to rescue him.  While at the hunting store, Jenni begins transforming from the timid, meek, battered housewife into a hard core zombie killing machine.  Jenni's only desire is to be useful to others around her, and she finds that she is useful for killing.  

While returning from the rescue mission, Jenni and Katie run out of gas near a small Texas town that has been reinforced.  It's really a fort.  This group of survivors has a secure shelter, food and a crew of talented construction workers.  Katie and Jenni meet Travis and Juan in this fortified city, and Katie immediately feels a connection to Travis.  

Katie and Jenni spend the remainder of this book at the Fort, trying to strengthen it's safety and to continue along living within the society that still remains.  After many close calls with zombies, Jenni completes her transformation into a bad ass, gun toting, "loca," zombie-killing machine.
"Cause I volunteered.  Besides, I get to be harnessed up and fly."  Jenni grinned.  "Kinda like a lethal Tinker Bell of death!"

The end of this book leaves the survivors still trying to understand this new world they live in, while faced with the problem of providing space, food, clean water and supplies to the ever increasing number of survivors that are found.  The zombie threat is as dangerous as ever, which leads the reader into the next book, Fighting to Survive. 

Rhiannon Frater does an excellent job of keeping the fear-factor in her writing.  Not once during this book did I feel comfortable with these characters.  There was always the sickening fear of zombies killing characters I've grown to enjoy, or infighting in the fort that threatens to plunge these characters into a "Lord of the Flies" existence.  The emotions that the characters experience are very raw and painful at points.  Frater does a great job of transferring those emotions from the page to the reader.  Every time I read about the "little fingers" I had to remind myself to breathe and that this is a work of fiction.  

I also loved the setting of this book.  It seems to be taking place in the Texas Hill Country, not far from my former home.  The brutal Texas landscape adds to the feel of this story.  Frater describes the scenery spot on, and I am thankful for it.  

The only thing I had a very small issue with was the fact that everyone seemed to be set on calling Jenni "crazy."  I'll admit it - Jenni is my favorite character in this story.  She made an impressive transformation into a zombie killing queen, but there are so many times that someone in this story says that she's crazy.  It's one thing when Katie or Juan, both close friends of Jenni, call her crazy or "loca," but it seemed that everyone considered her nuts.  I don't think Jenni is crazy at all.  I think that she's taken a bad situation, and found a way to deal with it on her terms, and I think that makes her a very strong character. [EDITED TO ADD:  Rhiannon Frater has confirmed that Jenni really is mentally ill.  She writes an excellent post about Jenni on her blog here.  Jenni being called crazy is in no way derogatory.]

Reviews for Rhiannon Frater's remaining two books in this series, Fighting to Survive and Siege are forthcoming.  


Alexa said...

Lol you should become friends with Ashley from The Bookish Brunette because she loves this series and especially Jenni!

She got me to read htis one and while it is certainly not my type of read I enjoyed it. Not sure I would continue readin this series but it does play out like a movie and it was interesting.

Glad you liked it and I skimmed your reviews of books 2 and 3 which you seemed to love so I'm glad this series was worth it for you.

Thanks for the great review.

Anonymous said...

This books looks excellent and thus was added to my massive, to read list. I'm definitely going to have to check it out if only for a mentally ill heroine!

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