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Zombie Fallout by Mark Tufo

Zombie Fallout by Mark Tufo
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Book Name: Zombie Fallout
Author: Mark Tufo
Publisher(s): Self-Published
Formatt: Paperback / eBook
Genre(s): Horror / Science Fiction / Zombie
Release Date: February 5, 2010

Did you ever watch Married with Children? If you have, then I can safely direct your attention to the second paragraph. If not, then I recommend you look up a few episodes online and then come back to this paragraph. Go on. I can wait. Personally, I used to love the show when I was a kid, though I could never for the life of me figure out why. I know my dad loved it, and many a fond memory involve us sitting up at night watching the latest episode. And after rediscovering it through the virtue of the Internet, I can safely say that my opinion of Married with Children has not changed, though it has been strengthened quite a bit. The characters are quirky exaggerations of lower-middle class American white trash (minus the trailer) and by no stretch of the imagination are Al and Peggy considered a “sane” couple, but that’s what makes them all so entertaining to watch.

Now, you’re probably wondering why the opening paragraph focuses so heavily on Married with Children. Well, my friends, if you were to take the framework that is the Bundy clan, turn Al into a former Marine and dump the whole group into a George A. Romero script, you would have the most basic premise of Zombie Fallout!

Zombie Fallout is a series of books written by independent author Mark Tufo, one which I had discovered quite by accident when browsing through my Kindle yesterday. It only cost me $2.99, and I have to say it was worth the price of admission. But I’ll get to that in a minute.

The Zombie Fallout series chronicles the misadventures of ex-Marine/former white-collar-worker/working stiff/husband and father Michael Talbot. Michael is a simple man who enjoys video games, cold beer, zombie movies, and preparing for the apocalypse with one of the most unrealistic starting arsenal I have ever seen outside of the Gatling gun cheat for Resident Evil 2. Not that I EVER used that. No. I’m an honest gamer, I am. Though what scares me is that there are likely people who DO have the weapon stockpiles that he does. What scares me even more is Mike’s initial reaction to the sight of a zombie licking his spy hole and witnessing a dozen or so parading around his front yard…he’s excited! Though his enjoyment of the moment is soured when he realizes that one of his sons is still trapped at work, and Mike and his intrepid family must set out to rescue their boy. And this is only the start of the weird and terrible series of events that Mike, his family, and the survivors in the Little Turtle housing community are forced to endure throughout the first novel.

Like so many other zombie tales as of late, the first Zombie Fallout book is told in a journal style, allowing us introspective into Mike’s mind as he tries to rationale what is going on and regale us with the day-to-day aspects of trying to survive. There are whole moments (especially in the beginning) where he rants and digresses more than I do, which is saying something. Then again, if we were in his situation, we may do the same. Most of his interactions involve his family and very small circle of friends and antagonists, though these are very rarely sources of contention and excitement. Mike is sort of the Al Bundy of the novel – that is if Al Bundy had Marine training and access to heavy weapons, and his wife Tracy very much fits the Peggy role in that she is the foil and tries to be the voice of reason, but rather comes off as a weak attempt at an opposing point. In fact, most of the characters outside of Mike are pretty superfluous. Mike’s sons seem pretty interchangeable and seem devoid of the usual rivalry or quirks that make sibling dynamics such great sources of conflict, and we don’t have any conflict regarding Mike’s daughter Nicole, her fiancé, and Mike or Tracy.

This complaint is not solely limited to the family. Most of the other survivors we meet appear for maybe one or two chapters, and are then never mentioned again. These characters either fit into the “Ultra badass” mold or the “So dumb and useless that it hurts” mold. While I complain about this, I can indeed see people fitting into these categories come the zombie apocalypse, or any other doomsday. It’s a shame because so many of them could have potentially grown out of their shells and become strong, identifiable characters whose eventual deaths can affect us. It’s one of the problems I also had with the Dawn of the Dead remake: Too many characters and not enough time spent with them individually to make me care. Out of the rather large – if forgettable – cast, there are really three characters worth mentioning: Mike, Tommy, and the zombie lady.

Mike is mentionable simply on the virtue of being a protagonist. Tommy is an overweight kid who seems to have mental issues, and is guided by the voice of Ryan Seacrest. Yes. Ryan Seacrest. At least he doesn’t mention how Ryan’s voice is countermanded by the browbeating of an angry British man who argues with the burnt-out eighties pop sensation next to him. There is clearly more to Tommy than meets the eye, and we get some very obvious hints that he can see more than he lets on.

The only really mentionable character is the one who passes for a villain in this series: Eliza. Although she is never given that name in the book (had to read the synopsis for the second and third book to figure that out), Eliza is the aforementioned zombie woman who stalks Mike with malicious intent. I use the term “zombie woman” loosely, as she is nothing like the other zombies. Whenever she appears, Eliza is standing off in the distance, her eyes watching Mike with a fierce intelligence. Although she is physically rotting and there is a hunger behind her gaze, it seems that her intent is not to consume Mike, as Eliza actually gives him a chance to flee before the final confrontation. There are hints that she has great power, perhaps even magic. What makes this odd, even by zombie standards, is that these are your classic virus-made zombies. H1N1 to be more accurate. There’s also a line at the very end that hints at what Eliza may be…though I won’t spoil that.

Nagging issues with some characters and a few narrative choices aside, I obviously enjoyed the book – to the point that I spent most of the night reading it. If you’re looking for a relatively cheap, enjoyable zombie novel with a few mysterious elements thrown in and you like to support your independent authors, may I strongly suggest you throw your lot in with Mr. Tufo and pick up your very own copy to add to your own horde of the dead.

Editor’s Note: This will be my last zombie novel in a while, but please stick with me for October, as I have a host of zombie novels that I plan on reviewing weekly that month! Next time, I plan on revisiting Joe Ledger and seeing what machinations he uncovers in The Dragon Factory.

Scores

Heroes: Michael Talbot is a strange mix of Everyman and Rambo. I like him enough to follow him, though the rest of the crew seems to be pretty forgettable. – 3/5

Villains: Eliza is perhaps the scariest zombie I have ever read about. If she even is a zombie, that is. – 5/5

Narrative: Very organic and chaotic at times, though we get a strong sense of Mike’s personality and coping mechanisms. It reminds us that as awesome as Mike is, he’s still human and can crack easily. – 4/5

Plot: Your usual zombie survival plot, albeit with a nice little mystery of the supernatural thrown in. It makes me want to know more about Tommy and Eliza. – 5/5

Science/Magic: H1N1 creates zombies. Just… roll with it. What I’m more interested in is what sort of powers or abilities Tommy and Eliza have, and if there’s a connection between those two. – 4/5

World: It feels like a slightly quirky version of our world. With zombies. – 4/5

Overall: 4/5

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Rating: 9.5/10 (8 votes cast)
Zombie Fallout by Mark Tufo, 9.5 out of 10 based on 8 ratings
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