Afflicted Dawn by Gregory Napier – Book Review [Bellarius]
Examining an entry into the zombie genre, Bellarius details his thoughts on Afflicted Dawn by Gregory Napier.
“While Napier shows he has potential as a writer, Afflicted Dawn makes too many basic errors from the outset to recommend.” – Bellarius, The Founding Fields
Of all the horror genres to still remain true to their classic incarnation, the zombie genre is one of the most overplayed today. With DayZ, The Walking Dead and countless other releases attempting to capitalise on the idea of a zombie infested post-apocalyptic planet, the genre has become over-saturated with a single idea. Afflicted Dawn is an attempt to put a new spin on the genre with a variation of the traditional zombie, treating them more like a rabid plague with horde instincts.
Following a potential cure for cancer having some unexpected side effects, much of the world has been left in ruins. Thanks to injections creating half a billion potential carriers long before anyone has the opportunity to react, the infection soon spreads like wildfire, cutting down everything in its path. It takes barely any time at all for society to collapse and humanity’s remnants are minor factions of survivors. Among those we see are an uncle and niece attempting to avoid the fighting, a dwindling band of US soldiers, and a woman who has witnessed the worst of humanity in this dark era. More horrifying of all is that the Afflicted are not mindless, they are gradually learning, adapting and becoming far more effective at hunting down the few uninfected left alive.
On paper, no pun intended, this does work. The book offers a variety of different viewpoint characters with varying backgrounds, a slightly different spin on the usual zombie apocalypse setting, and has a potential message which would be worked into the story a-la Romero. As with so many things however, the problems lie with the book’s execution of these points.
Foremost among these is lies with how the book sets up events and the characters themselves. There’s no gradual pace or build up to events, and readers are far too quickly thrust into the moment. While this can work with certain books, here it fails as it offers you no time to really connect with the characters. We know nothing about them beyond their names and some inkling of their relationships, and even that is tentative. It’s so focused upon the action and rapid pace that there is no opportunity to really get to know these individuals, and it never really lets up enough to let the reader truly care about them.
The relationship between Dylan and Aurie (the uncle and niece) is a good starting point, but they’re never really fleshed out enough as individual characters to matter beyond that. The same really goes with the soldiers’ comradeship, which is a running theme within the book but it’s not enough to individually flesh them all out. The few times the book does try to explore the characters or add moments of humanity, it sadly comes across as melodramatic. Something which is not helped by the fact the characters are barely introduced and the first of these moments happens three chapters in.
Just as one quick example one soldier, Kevin, is infected following fighting and mercy killed, but the event is done with tears, overwrought dialogue and hammed up to the Nth degree. Parts of it might have worked, but because the book barely established who he or any of the others are, the reader is given no reason to why they should be invested in his character. It’s supposed to highlight how many they had lost, but a better way of doing that would have been to have one of the soldiers internally reflecting upon this, rather than conveying it almost exclusively through dialogue. A problem the book suffers from extensively.
The dialogue itself ranges from fairly decent to painfully bad, the latter frequently being associated with the occupants of the Citadel such as Tank, Whip and Zeus; all of who are introduced as thugs of the worst kinda-la Mad Max. Their presence also introduces two more problems for the book. The foremost is that it disrupts what little world building the book had featured up to their introduction. What little there had been up until the Citadel was introduced seemed to be aiming for a largely realistic presentation of a zombie apocalypse for the most part. With the introduction of this lot, hammy language and all, it destroys any semblance of a theme within the setting and feels wildly incoherent.
The other problem which emerges from their presence is a certain subject. One I continually advise books to veer away from unless they have an extremely good reason for it to be there: Rape. It’s an extremely cheap way to try and make the bad guys more evil, and it’s rarely depicted with any shadow of realism. We’re told within a paragraph that Carmen, one of the book’s only two prominent female characters, has this repeatedly happen to her within a few short hours, yet it never seems to have any impact. This is quite frankly disgusting treatment of the subject, failing to approach it with any kind of severity or true seriousness, and it’s easily the book’s biggest failing.
Despite all of this, Napier does show a degree of competence with his prose and characters. There are occasional sparks of quality here and there, with some good moments of helping to flesh out the environments. Some depictions of scenes such as Dylan’s collapse or the latter stages of the initial outbreak (shown via flashback) do have emotional impact and there are clear moments where the story presents a few decent ideas with the Afflicted. As it stands however, this is not a good book and I would hope the author uses this as a learning experience. He has definite talent, but he needs to desperately focus upon improving his presentation and the quality of his work.