A quick read, full of frights, tension, and touches of dark humour

Dead Meat : Day 1 - Nick Clausen

I received an ARC copy of the story from the author which I freely chose to review.

I have recently read a novella from the same author that I enjoyed, and when he contacted me and offered me a copy of the first part of his new zombie series (new in English, although already published and successful in Danish) I had to say yes. Despite being a horror fan, I haven’t read many zombie books but, like many of us, I’ve watched enough living-dead movies and series to be familiar with the genre.

In this brief narrative (the first in the series, as the title indicates), we are plunged into the action (or rather, the tense waiting) from the very beginning. The author does a great job of making us feel the heat, the anxiety, and the claustrophobia of the basement where the three youths have taken refuge and the fear and uncertainty of the characters, whom we don’t know yet but will soon get to grips with. We have Thomas, his girlfriend Jenny, and Dan, Jenny’s younger brother. What had started as a standard newspaper run, ends up getting them into real trouble.

The action, narrated in the third person from different characters’ point of view (not alternating, so there’s no risk of getting confused. I don’t want to discuss this in detail to avoid spoilers, but we all know mortality is high in zombie stories) is pretty relentless. There are brief intervals when the characters are waiting and trying to decide what to do, but this is, perhaps, more scary and anxiety-provoking than the actual direct confrontations.

The explanation behind the zombies’ existence is believable within the constraints of the genre; there is plenty of gore (despite the young protagonists, I wouldn’t recommend this story to people who are squeamish); due to the use of alternating points of view, we get to experience the story as if we were there, and I kept wondering where and when the next zombie would turn up (and trying to come up with a workable solution to their predicament). There were a few moments when things seemed to be about to get sorted, but weren’t, and also hair-raising scenes aplenty. Oh, and there is some slapstick and dark humour as well (although it might depend on what you find funny).

As for the characters, although we don’t know too many details about them, due to the extreme situation they find themselves in, to their normalcy (from the bits of information we learn they are not extraordinary in any way, and it’s easy to imagine we might have reacted in similar ways if we were in that situation) and to the way the story is told, where we hardly get any break, it’s impossible not to empathise and root for them to survive. Of course, this is only the first book in the series, and we’ll have a chance to learn more about the characters in the next books. Although… well, this is a genre book.

As you can imagine, there is no definite conclusion or closure to the story. Although things change and it looks at some point as if everything might work out all right (at a heavy price, of course), well, there is no happy ending, and I suspect most of you will spot what is the missing element and why this is only day 1.

I enjoyed this short read, which provides thrills and scares aplenty, captures the claustrophobic atmosphere and the anxiety of the situation, and makes good use of all the tropes of the genre. I look forward to learning more about the characters and also seeing what happens next.