Undead L.A. by Devan Sagliani
On September 20, the zombie virus was released into the dense population of transients on Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles. It spread like unstoppable wildfire in all directions, decimating everything in its path for six full weeks before outside measures were taken to cleanse the scourge. These stories take place in those final times. They are told through the eyes of several different Angelinos, each offering a unique perspective to the events as they unfolded and to the aftermath of the virus.
When it comes to safely navigating 747’s Edgar Reynolds is a consummate professional. It’s his personal life that’s in shambles after a string of affairs he couldn’t be bothered to hide. None of that matters to him the morning he wakes up to discover he’s smack dead in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. Now what’s important is that he survives long enough to hijack a plane from LAX and flee the end of the world.
Detective Gary Wendell isn’t having the best day. A murder case in West Hollywood takes him from the Hollywood Hills to the Twin Towers in downtown L.A. The hunt for his killer stirs fresh life into Gary’s secret obsession. If it’s the end of the world, Gary’s going to exact his own justice on the monster who got away, the one who told him that murder isn’t art if NO ONE IS WATCHING.
When Donny’s dad took off he left him and his mom in a run down apartment in Hollywood scrambling to make ends meet. Still he managed to form a begrudging bond with his mom’s new boyfriend, who took him under his wing. Just when things were starting to look up for them as a family, a virus hit L.A. taking away any last shred of hope or safety they had. Soon it’s up to Donny, and his pack of teenage friends, to defend their gated apartment complex. Working together, they do their part to protect and provide for the remaining survivors at CAMP ZOMBIE.
Being invited to the Emmys as the date of her favorite television actor is a dream Kathleen could never imagine. She also never expected to return to the city of her college years one last time before dying of terminal cancer. When the doors burst open in the middle of the ceremony and infected homeless people begin eating her favorite celebrities, everything changes. Now she’s caught between spending her final moments in mind-numbing terror fleeing for her life, or letting the filthy undead strip the last good memories away in TO LIVE & DIE IN L.A.
Pilar Garcia grew up working in her father’s fish taco truck in Boyle Heights, but dreamed of becoming a world-class chef one day. After overcoming the cultural stereotypes and working her way through Culinary Arts school she created a food truck empire so successful that 3 of her best trucks snatch a spot at the coveted Los Angeles City Fall Street Food Fair in downtown. Unfortunately, that’s the same day the virus is released into Skid Row, mere blocks away in LA CUCARACHA.
Guillermo and his half brother Caesar have always been survivors. Growing up in the gang neighborhoods of Venice Beach they’ve learned to take care of each other first and ask questions later. Yermo is starting to get a reputation as a serious surfer by the local guys he reveres, including the new legend of Dogtown and former professional surfer, Brody. He’s not about to let like the end of the world keep him out of the water or off his streets. Together they form a group capable of not only dealing with the zombie menace but also fighting off the new arrivals intent on taking over Venice Beach – a vicious new supergang: One Blood. They’re not heroes though, they’re just the DOGTOWN LOCALS UNION
A zombie virus has been unleashed on Los Angeles residents and the results are fast and devastating. If you’re tired of mundane zombie reads with the same old “survivor” theme by a single point of view, this read will be a pleasant treat.
You can tell from the first page that Mr. Sagliani respects his characters and it paid off. He makes it hard to not become invested in their outcome and the finesse with which he writes the lives and emotional upheavals of the players in these apocalyptic tales make this read flow and before you know it you are at the end wondering how he wrote so many characters so realistically.
Characterization can be the driving factor of greatness or a book’s downfall. For Sagliani, he excelled in this aspect in my opinion.
The first story introduces you to a pilot who reminisces over how he’s lived his life when the virus reaches the airport.
The second, a detective who goes too far in his attempts to catch a killer and is demoted to a new position. All the while he’s keeping the killer and his crimes in the back of his mind. When the virus hits, Detective Wendell sees it as the perfect time for justice to be served.
In another story, Pilar, wants to succeed and be someone. She works so hard she has hasn’t had time to herself. When she does find someone to spend time with, it is short-lived.
And Kathleen, who’s been dealt a bad hand is turned away from death even though she’ll eventually die. She finds no solace in the end times.
I’m going on about the characters because they are that good. They are the force, the steam, that keep this read’s dynamic pacing and terrific storytelling from stalling out.
I look forward to reading more of Devan Sagliani’s work.