By John Palisano
Pub. Date: June 2, 2015
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
This is the beginning of John Palisano’s refreshingly different zombie novel Dust of the Dead. With the glut of undead books and movies out there with mindless brain-eaters, Palisano gives us something a little different. The author‘s creatures aren’t interested in brains and are not exactly mindless. They appear more disoriented and angry at first but, as the dust unsettles, seem to be developing a speed and strength not inherent in the first zombies. The author goes over the first zombie apocalypse rather quickly giving us the background through Mike Lane’s eyes. Mike is the center of this story and his first person narrative is dead on, letting us experience the carnage, sense the inevitable societal breakdown, and know what we need to know in a nicely revealing and steady pace. The first zombie invasion as Mike describes it is treated rather casually. It is described as more of a major inconvenience. This is a good decision as it moves the tension and our expectations directly to what is to come. Without giving any spoilers. I will just say that zombie dust becomes a whole different matter and makes the protagonists a little nostalgic for the day of zap, bash and kill.
Even with all the surprises in store, the book mainly works because it is seen through the eyes of Mike Lane. Mike is pretty average. He is doing a job, has a girl friend who he likes more than he lets on, and develops a bond with his fellow colleagues. Mike has adapted to some hard times yet is seeing his world fall apart due to something that was previously unimaginable to him. It is that viewpoint that makes Dust of the Dead so interesting and worthwhile. It is brash, involving and full of thrills and scares. But we also feel for our narrator and share his emotions as the world and his friends changes.
Mostly set in the San Fernando Valley, Palisano has a great sense of locale, taking us on a little tour of The Valley in Zombieland. The novel has a good regional feel and is especially entertaining for someone who loves Los Angeles yet enjoy it reading it being destroyed, such as your fellow native Valley Dude reviewer. Novels with a good regional setting, even if you are not familiar with the locale, are always interesting when the area takes on its own character and meaning. Mike is a Valley Guy and feels like it. I appreciated that in the tale.
But even and you don’t “feel” the environment, there is no getting around that Dust of the Dead brings something new to the long suffering and more than slightly worn zombie legacy. It is good to see something new in this sub-genre. There is room for a sequel as the ending is intentionally open-ended. This is one of those rare times I would welcome a sequel.