The Return Man by VM Zito – Advanced Review [Bane of Kings]


Bane of Kings Reviews The Return Man by VM Zito, the author’s first novel, published by Hodder and Stoughton, and is released in stores March 2012.

A page-turning, action packed, well-crafted debut novel that will take your breath away. Highly recommended.” ~The Founding Fields

It didn’t take much convincing to get me hooked on The Return Man, VM Zito’s first foray into the realm of the writing industry. First of all – the appearance of zombies, and as you know if you’ve been following TFF for a while, you’ll know that I’m a huge fan. In fact, although I haven’t recently read many of zombie fiction (to see which zombie-related books that I’ve reviewed, click on the tag at the bottom of the review labelled zombies.) – I’ll read and enjoy pretty much anything zombie related. And so, when I came across The Return Man, it didn’t take me long to get hooked on VM Zito’s debut.

Set after the initial outbreak, the novel follows Doctor Henry Marco, living alone in the barren wasteland that was once western USA, known as the Evacuated States to those survivors that reside on the East coast. And, it is in these Evacuated States where Marco makes his living, hunting down the deceased and delivering peace, hired by grieving relatives. And it is here, that homeland security will enlist Henry Marco on a mission that will take him back to where it all began, and his tragic past will come back to harm him yet again.

Especially when nothing is as it seems, with twists and turns abound, this action-packed blockbuster is going to have you hooked right from the get go. I really enjoyed it, and now I’m going to tell you why.

First, let’s start with Henry Marco, the central protagonist in this very short cast of dramatis personae. Although the story isn’t told from the first person perspective of Marco (in fact, there’s no first person POV of him at all), as it jumps around from character to character, Marco is still firmly the centre of attention, the character that we know the most about, and the character who we get to really understand over the course of The Return Man. He’s flawed enough to actually be a real person, and isn’t portrayed as the next Superman. This helps make the novel great, and it ups the tension, as I believe I’m not the only one who thought that there was some situations where I didn’t quite think Marco would make it out alive.

And, of course, it’s not just Marco who we have to deal with. There’s the Chinese secret agent Kheng Wu, working under the guise of a US soldier sent to back up Marco on this mission. Wu makes a fantastic counterpart to Marco, and as we get to see the perspective from both the secret agent and the lead star himself, it really helps us understand what’s going on, and I believe that The Return Man wouldn’t have worked as well as it did if it hadn’t been told in first person.

The action is pretty fast paced, with several awesome fight scenes that will have you flicking through the pages as you’re desperate to find out what happens next. It’s unputdownable, and will have you whizzing through especially in the latter half of the novel, where the action reaches the outstanding finale and the bittersweet conclusion where Zito could even have room for a sequel, if he wanted to return to the barren wastelands of Western USA.

I hope he does, despite the fact that the novel works perfectly fine as a standalone. I, and am not alone in this opinion, really enjoyed The Return Man, and it is far from your average zombie thriller, with the zombies in question having a twist that I liked, and the inclusion of Wu to add to the tension and the stakes.

Also, there’s even some good news that a company has considered the option for movie rights, so we may be seeing a film in the future. And I don’t think that I’ll be the only one that wants to go and see it.

If you’re looking for a bloodbath, this is a novel for you. There’s lots of bloody, gritty, gore-infested violence that splatters through the pages of The Return Man, and helps make the novel more enjoyable.

Highly recommended, zombie fan or not.

Verdict: 4/5

Milo, aka Bane of Kings, is a SFF/Comic reader, and watches a lot of TV. His favourite authors are Neil Gaiman, China Mieville, Jim Butcher, Brandon Sanderson & Iain M. Banks, whilst his favourite TV shows are Battlestar Galactica (2003), Person Of Interest, Firefly, Game of Thrones, & Buffy the Vampire Slayer