It's time to take a little look at a novel from Jeremiah Coe in which he mixes his two passions, the American Civil War and zombies, to come up with a tale called Uncivil Dead. And who can resist a good zombie tale? Well, not my kids, that's for sure. To go with their new Kindles for Christmas I gave them copies of my holiday horror collection Frog Nog And Other Horrday Tales, as well as their own copies of Uncivil Dead.
Guess what they read?
Yep, Uncivil Dead.
Guess what they still haven't bothered to read?
Yep, zombies trump dear old Dad every time.
I found Jeremiah's story telling in this tale to be an improvement over his short story Vampire's Retribution, although much of it seems to read like a novelization of a screenplay, which means that I think this tale would come across better with on screen visuals as opposed to being presented as a written story. Taking that aside Uncivil Dead is a fairly entertaining read, and will definitely hold the interest of any hardcore zombiephile.
Coe presents us with the tale of a Union garrison stationed in an occupied Confederate town where the citizens aided the Union soldiers. Without warning a strange plague breaks out, causing the dead to walk and hunger for human flesh. There's gore aplenty in this one, even though it starts at a slow and even pace before picking up steam in the final quarter of the novel. Coe makes an attempt to get into the mind set of both sides on the human side of the conflict and presents the reader with Union soldiers who are not all great emancipators who are fighting for the rights and equality of Southern slaves.
As for the weaknesses of the story, well the "movie" feel that it has does tend to detract a little from the narrative, and Jeremiah sometimes presents up with characters who have long passages devoted to them before disappearing into the background, as well as characters introduced late into the story just for the express purpose of being zombie bait. The zombies themselves reminded me of the ones in CHUD II: Bud The CHUD, in that they only "nibble" on someone as long as they are alive, plus the dead revive as zombies as soon as they die. As with Vampire's Retribution he uses a few terms which seem out of place in the Civil War Era, such as describing someone being taken down like "a lion taking down a gazelle", size ten boots, numbers games, the gravity of the situation, and nervous breakdowns. However, Coe does show he knows his stuff, especially when it comes to the weapons of the era and their shortcomings. He even threw in a couple of baseball references that myself and sons agreed seemed out of place, and upon including my father in-law in on the discussion he looked it up and through Coe's references we indeed learned that baseball did predate the Civil War.
There are those who might have a problem with the fact that a whole town becomes zombies as the garrison protecting them is totally unaware, however I read into it the fact that the plague had started outside of town and had spread from other parts of the county first, which would account for the sheer number of walking dead at climax of the story. If anything Jeremiah gives us a look at the plague from near the beginning, as opposed to throwing you into it Night Of The Living Dead or The Walking Dead style, which I found fairly refreshing. He does try to add a few unique spins on the usual, and even unusual, zombie staples, some work and some do not.
Overall I rate Uncivil Dead Four Stars. Jeremiah, in my estimation, is still continuing to develop and grow as a writer, and he does deliver an engrossing and entertaining tale, that I know is going to hit home with zombie lovers and gore hounds. That said, the novel does have some bits of unintentional humor. With several wounds that erupt blood "like a volcano" (again a testament to that horror movie feel), and explosive diarrhea that runs like rivers (and yeah, I'm being just a little feceious there, extra heavy on the feces).
There are a few lines that are laugh out loud, such as:
"You can only fart for so long before you start to worry about mushing your pants if you fart anymore..."
Sage knowledge. :)
"Mark Soltis had snuck off from everyone else to urinate against standing orders."
Which of course I found funny, because how often in history do you suppose a soldier wanted to urinate on standing orders for their superiors? Then again that can be applied a little to the white and blue collar worlds as well.
As with my review for Vampire's Retribution I can't express enough that Jeremiah Coe is an up and coming independent horror author that it is well worth your while to check out. I'm already waiting for his next novel. He's genuinely into the genre, and I've come to believe that he doesn't think about much else, which was what earned him a street and a subdivision in my short story It Came From Beyond The Midnight Clear.
You can get your copy of Uncivil Dead here:
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/uncivil-dead-jeremiah-coe/1107502752
Sony eBook Store: http://ebookstore.sony.com/ebook/jeremiah-coe/uncivil-dead/_/R-400000000000000547785
Keep a lurk out for Jeremiah Coe, because he's surely lurking out for you!