Published by Books of the Dead on January 8th 2014
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This review is based on an ARC provided by the author in an exchange for an honest review.
There is the seed of something very original and quite intriguing at the heart of T.S. Alan’s The Romero Strain. Wrapped in what looks like a very run-of-the-mill zombie apocalyptic thriller is the concept that what caused the dead to rise might affect certain people in a very different way – something that the protagonist of the Romero Strain learns first-hand.
It’s a pity then that I had such trouble relating to him.
I’m not sure if Alan was trying to make his main character edgy, or just different to the usual hero that populates this type of read. Well, he certainly succeeded, but not in a way that endeared J.D. Nichols to me. At the beginning of the novel, J.D is taking his dog for a walk when the zombies begin running amok. Within 30 pages, he has managed to act entitled, stuck up, sexist, and creepy – all while putting down barely a handful of zombies. This made for a tricky read, as the entire novel is told from his first-person perspective. He does seem less off-putting by the end of the novel, but not before becoming uber-creepy in a way that I won’t describe here.
Troublesome main character aside, Alan does create some better minor characters for J.D. to riff off, though his habit of quoting movies with another survivor stopped being quaint by the end of Part One.
The other main issue I had with The Romero Strain typifies that found in first-time novels: namely, the pacing was wildly inconsistent. After a frenetic beginning, Alan slows things to a crawl, detailing buildings and structures that no-one other than a native New Yorker could possibly care about. Things then meander through the middle part of the novel, before building nicely toward the end, only for the action to completely stop when J.D. has one of his many selfish moments and decides to go visit his old neighbourhood – dragging the reader for a stroll down a memory lane that had zero impact on the overall plot.
The ending would seem to leave things wide open enough for a sequel, and despite the above issues, I suspect many will be interested to see where Alan intends on taking his characters. Hopefully, he’ll dedicate more of that sequel’s run time to fleshing out the idea of what else other than zombies people are becoming in his version of the apocalypse.
2 Hyper-Extensive Necks for The Romero Strain.