Posted on March 3, 2009 by Filamena
So to be perfectly honest, I’ve been going back and forth on whether on not I actually wanted to write this review. It basically came down to ‘not burning bridges’ in a very small universe, or being honest with my readers. (I know, all three of you.)
When I weighted it out, I decided a bad review treated fairly and note based on gut reaction might be better for the internet as a whole then a blank space. Plus, that way, as new readers show up, (I’ll welcome you, reader number four,) they can feel secure that I’m reviewing for honesty and not just for links.
So without further ado, my review of Brian Keene’s first novel The Rising. Not his last book by far, God bless him, I never intended to review only new books, however, so bare with me.
How I Found This Book: Do you know, I’m not sure? I think it’s one of those convoluted social networking messes, like a guy who knows a guy invited me to Ning network and I followed him back on Twitter and then he mentioned Keene, and I was like, ‘I want more writers I love,’ so I went out and picked up this book. (Internet ties always make me think in run-on sentences.)
That said, let me tell you, I really really wanted to love this book. I wanted to pick it up and love every goddam page of it and eat if for breakfast and run out and buy everything Keene ever wrote and be a fangirl and run screaming through the rain to get to the front of the line at book signings.
So, you know, the fact that I actually kind of hate this book A LOT makes the possibility of those other things happening pretty slim.
Lemmie see, a book with a construction worker, a old priest, and a ex junkie ex hooker team up to save the construction worker’s son from the zombie hoard? Where the hell do I sign up? I usually hate the synopsis on the back of the books. In this case, I actually wish the book fit it’s back cover. Alas, not so much.
The Good: Erm. Well. You know, um. Okay, that’s not fair. To be fair, this book has a lot going for it. Keene’s got a real gift with sensory detail, which is important in a zombie novel. There are things in the book that are really truly gross in an enjoyable way, and I think that was the writer’s intention. At one point he describes the smell of a man’s infected leg not unlike a microwaved hotdog. I don’t know if this is completely true, but it sure was vivid. I’ll also note that this is a first novel, and maybe some of the problems I had with it had more to do with Keene exorcising some demons then any actual defect in his personality. Who knows, right? Also, there are some KILLER ideas in there. Sentient zombies? Check. The host of Hell? Check. The military going crazy and trying to take over? Check. A heartfelt search to save a man’s estranged son? Well, most of a check.
The Bad: The problem is, none of those good ideas got followed completely, while Keene instead chose to focus on a strange rape fixation and this weird ‘all people are bad, or if not, they’re dead’ philosophy that seemed forced. Time and time again, the characters run into people who have gone from normal to people to mustache twirling evil in the few months since the dead started to walk. I understand that without civilization, people are likely to get WAY more selfish and blah blah, but Keene’s focus seems to all but ignore the zombies and focus on the ‘evil that men do’ in such cartoonish fashion that I imagined the demonic zombies sitting on the side lines going ‘hey, we’re over here yanno. We’ll rape, pillage and eat you too if you’d just give us a little attention.’
When I was talking to my husband about this book I had a long, feminist rant about how disgusted I was by much of the stories fascination with taking sexual advantage of the main heroine, but I think I’ll spare you. Suffice to say, when Keene decided to describe in detail a gang-bang followed by urination on the woman I assume I’m supposed to identify with, I threw the book across the room. And don’t even ask me about the Meat Wagon, a brothel on wheels that the National Guardsman build to turn every woman they run across into a sex slave. I’m sure a busy man like Brian Keene isn’t going to read this, and if he is, I’m sure he’ll dismiss it because it’s a bad review, but really, Brain, man, lighten up on the women, huh? We want to be your audience too. If you really think this is the way men would behave when society falls, I weep for your outlook on life.
So why did I finish reading it? I guess I kept hoping the last few pages would be some kind of pay off. That I’d get some reward for the disgusting cartoon I had read that far, but alas, I was never satisfied. The book brings you right up to the point where you find out if the construction worker’s son is alive or not, (you know, the reason I’m reading the book in the first place? The story?) And that’s it. To the door, no further.
The damn thing didn’t end.
I don’t know if I was expected to make up my own ending, or if I was expected to read the sequel as a result, but I can tell you one thing, I LIKE open endings and cliff hangers. I did not feel like this was either a cliff hanger or open ended. To be perfectly honest, I feel like the ending was a cop-out. Like Keene had lost his real story some where along the sadistic-rape-happy way and couldn’t bring himself back to it in time to end the book. But what the heck do I know, right? This guy has had a dozen novels published, and I’m still 0 for 0.
Who Will Like This Book: I want to say something snide like, ‘not anyone I want to be alone in a room with,’ but that’s probably unfair. I know he’s got a hell of a following, I’ve checked out his fan community, but wasn’t terribly surprised to see a lot of military or ex military men in the forums. I’m sure they saw things in this and other books by Keene I’m just not seeing, or maybe they just didn’t see the degradation and humiliation I found so appalling. That’s not really for me to say, so I’ll just say this; true to the back cover, this book is not for the squeamish.
Who Won’t Like This Book: Other than me? Again, hard to say. I read some unnecessarily scathing comments on Amazon, but that wasn’t a big surprise. I know my husband would hate it. I figure if you want a deep psychological look at humanity and their responses to chaos and damnation, this probably isn’t the book for you.
Review by Filamena Young