Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Book Review: Primitive (Delirium Books, 2009) by J. F. Gonzalez, 303 pages.

Here is a twist on the post-apocalyptic theme: rather than the survivors battling flesh eating zombies, they find themselves in a daily fight for survival against Neanderthals. While that is a great set up for a joke, this tale is not. In a world turned in on itself by an airborne plague, the clock has spun backwards on our good citizens rendering them into blood thirsty primitives.

While clearly starting out as an entertaining story and a pointed, cautionary tale about our own basic inner animal instincts, the book bogs down in repetition, clichés, contradictions and political comment. Written as a first person narrative to aid the reader in experiencing the world going mad, it simply fails to engage on a personal level. During the entire reading of this book, I could not restrain myself from comparing this story to the thirty year onslaught of zombie-based plots featuring the struggle for survival by a small band of normal people. Dressed in a different monster suit, there is no new ground here, nothing to horrify or shock.

Usually, the story between the characters carries the underlying plot along, creating interest and tension. If successfully written, the reader will invest his feelings in the survivors and their unique tales and root for his favorites as they blend and conflict. Again, I could not emotionally connect with these characters. Each is a stereotype of the survivors in the milieu of end of the world tales. The prerequisites are all present: the professor, the military man, the rebellious teen, and a mother and child, presumably thrown in for good measure to provide hope for the future.

I will not spoil the ending, but unfortunately, even that is pat. I do commend Mr. Gonzalez for giving us a break from zombies. I just wish his story had more tension than unfulfilled expectation.

This is not an easy genre to work in, as the ground trodden upon has been essentially worn bare by writer popularity coupled with the perception that readers have an insatiable appetite for apocalyptic survival fiction. Like any other road traveled, the popular one is always busy and prone to traffic jams and even wrecks. Sometimes, though, it is best to move to higher ground to gain a new and more panoramic perspective.

But it here.

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