Posted on September 13, 2007 by Flames
Written by David Wellington
Monster Island opens sometime after the rise of zombies across the world. Most of the civilized nations have already been overrun and there are only a few survivors left. Not surprisingly, larger population centers are early victims of the zombie menace and, as a result, the more developed countries fall more quickly. For example, the sheer population size of a city like New York makes the epidemic difficult to contain. Too many people, coupled with poor “epidemic” containment, prove to be the city’s downfall in Monster Island.
Early in the story we meet Dekalb, a former United Nations weapons inspector who is leading a small band of young female soldiers from Africa to New York on a mission to collect medical supplies. They had already raided various facilities closer to home, but had not been able to find what they needed. It was Dekalb’s idea to check at the U.N. building in New York, he had worked there before going to Africa so he had some familiarity with the building.
In Chapter Two, the author introduces Gary, a zombie who had managed to retain his higher thought processes through his controlled suicide. Gary had some medical training before the zombie plague and had managed to steal some equipment that allowed him to attempt a procedure that might keep his mind active during his death. In a way, it worked. He became a zombie, but was able to retain his memories and not become a mindless walking corpse. He was still dead, however, and needed to feed like any other zombie.
Throughout the story Dekalb and Gary learn more about the changes that the city of New York (and the rest of the world) have gone through. They are allies, enemies and survivors at times working together and, more often than not, against each other. Gary develops new “powers” which allow him some control over the more mindless zombies around him. This puts him immediately at odds with the real “survivors” of the tale, Dekalb and the rest of the living.
Monster Island mixes horror and action rather well. Wellington writes combat scenes with just the right amount of tension and detail without boring the reader with drawn out gunfire or mundane descriptions of every terrain feature and every bullet spent. The action, whether it is a squad of militia with AK-47s or a swarm of zombies stalking a band of survivors scrounging for food, is intense and propels the story along.
The struggle between the living and the dead becomes the primary focus of the story as each chapter develops. This is a bit different from many zombie tales in that most of the other stories solely focus on the survivors destroying the dead or being eaten by them. With undead that can think and have goals to achieve, the story becomes dual layered, a real protagonist vs. antagonist tale.
Monster Island is more than survival horror, it is a gritty action adventure that is a great set-up for the next two volumes, Monster Nation and Monster Planet. Wellington has put together one of the best zombie stories I’ve had the chance to read in several years.
Reviewer: Matt M McElroy