Category Archives: As the World Dies

ZAM: Spotlight On Rhiannon Frater’s “As the World Dies” Trilogy

Introducing a personal favourite of both Steph and myself, the “As the World Dies” zombie apocalypse trilogy by the awesome Rhiannon Frater. Originally self-published after being picked up by Tor these books will be edited and re-released in 2011-12.


First publication: August 14th 2008
Expected publication of re-release: July 5th 2011


Description from Goodreads:

Two very different women flee into the Texas Hill Country on the first day of the zombie rising. Together they struggle to rescue loved ones, find other survivors, and avoid the hungry undead.

STEPH’S REVIEW

As the World Dies: The First Days is a fantastically scary zombie read that has you cheering the strong survivors until the end in a “world {that} had slid sideways into hell.

The story begins with Jenni, ”… a strange, strange girl in a strange, strange world”, muttering to herself while watching “those tiny fingers … pressed under the door … tips of tiny fingers raw and skinless”. We quickly come to realize that those tiny fingers belong to her now undead son. Somehow she manages to flee the house and is rescued by Katie, a prosecutor who was rescued by a priest, but is now alone, except for a brave zombie warning dog, Jack. Together they set off to find a safe place to settle and wrap their minds around what’s happened.

Along the way, they meet some amazing people, all doing what they can to survive. They quickly realize that bite = death and they become the executioners. They are “the funeral of the world … the mourning survivors picking up the pieces and finding a way to move on…” through their guilt of doing what must be done to survive. Jenni, once almost catatonic, has come to almost love her new role as, nicknamed by Katie, “a deadly Tinkerbell of death”, killing the zombies that remind her of all that she’s lost.

STEPH’S COMMENTS:
Jenni & Katie are heroines that I think anyone can relate to. Jenni’s story, hiding in the bathroom from “those tiny fingers … pressed under the door … tips of tiny fingers raw and skinless”, was one of the most heartbreaking and spooky scenes I’ve ever read. You immediately understand why she’s a bit off having had to deal with the loss of her son, but cheer her on as she makes her way out of the house (shows her will to live). Conversely, Katie seems to have it together even in light of the chaos around her. She deals with the events in stride, even though she too has suffered the loss of her partner.

As a pet lover, I fell in love with Jack, the brave zombie warning dog. I hope I am lucky enough to have such a dog if this should ever happen IRL. 😉

Nerit & Ralph made me think of how my husband & I might be if we found ourselves in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. Of course, I’d love to think I’d be as good a shooter as Nerit, but probably not.

Overall Thoughts ~
I was drawn in from the start. A gore-girl at heart, I was spooked and excited by the descriptive way Rhiannon brings her zombies to life. Jenni & Katie’s struggle to adapt and survive were admirable and I cheered them on throughout.

I loved how you had no idea what would happen next!

AMES’ COMMENTS:
This was my first ever zombie read and I absolutely loved it. Jenni and Katie become sisters-in-arms, developing an unbreakable bond in the face of the zombie holocaust. I was envious of their friendship. They came from very different backgrounds, their old lives lost and embark on new ones together and in Jenni’s case with a completely new personality as a crazy risk taker. Their survival was more about luck than skill, it was horrifying to see good people die so quickly and easily.

After reading this, for the first time I wished I lived in a gun-toting country. I want a gun, make that “guns”, plural, and a never-ending supply of bullets. You know, just in case.

My favourite bits
The zombie old man outside the library clutching “Better Sex After 60”Juan to Travis about Katie:
“Ever see Chasing Amy?”
“No.”
“Eh, you’re fucked”
“Yeah.”
Juan to Jenni:
“Dropping from the harness is real loca, Loca. What if you had missed and hit the spikes?”
“Um, you would miss me?”
“Yeah, right.”


First publication: March 5th 2009
Expected publication of re-release: November 8th 2011


Description from Goodreads:

Katie and Jenni have found new lives with the survivors of their makeshift fort, but danger still lurks. Nothing is easy in the new world where the dead walk and every day is a struggle to keep safe.

As the elements, bandits, and the zombie horde threaten their safe haven, Jenni and Katie join the other survivors in fighting to survive as the world dies.

STEPH’S REVIEW

ATWD: Fighting to Survive finds Jennie, Katie and their fort friends doing just that … Fighting to Survive. They’ve been living at the fort for a few months and are still trying to figure out who is the vigilante in the group. They are trying to create a society where everyone is equal, doing their part (whatever job they are best at) and trying to be accepting of all the many different personalities in the group.

Katie finally gives in her to attraction to Travis, admitting that she is bi and not only interested in women. She is still struggling with the loss of her wife, Lydia. Jenni, Juan, Jason & Jack, their dog, are becoming a family. Jack, their German Shepherd, makes me want to go out and adopt one today! Jenni’s memories of Mikey, Lloyd and baby Benji (those tiny fingers scraping under the door … gives me chills each time I read it!) continue to haunt her as well. The rest of the mini-mains are growing closer each day. Everyone is realizing that it’s time to try to get passed the loses they’ve experienced and enjoy the second chance at life and love they now have at the fort. Romances spark throughout.

As they fight through the terrifying memories of the “First Day”, ghosts of the ones they’ve loved and lost haunt them, or help them.

The group is also struggling to expand their “safe area”, as their numbers grow. More and more people make it to the fort safely, but the losses still occur, each mission to gather survivors and/or supplies is a risk they all take each day. In addition to dealing with the threat of zombie attacks, there’s a group of bandits that have been terrorizing other survivor outposts. The end of the world tending to bring out the worst of humanity, as well as the best.

Nerit continues to be one of my favorite characters, of course in addition to Katie & Jenni. She’s a bad-ass sniper who has become an integral part to the group’s survival.

This series only gets better with each book, drawing you more into the lives of the survivors, their memories of the “First Day” haunting you right along with them. Rhiannon Frater has a fantastic writing style. Without using more words than necessary, she has a way of describing things that make the reader feel as though you are right there. [This trilogy would make an awesome horror movie!! ]

If you love horror, gore and strong heroes this series is for you. I highly recommend it!

**LOL! Scenes in this book had me snickerin’ to myself …**

Jenni was given a T-shirt that read “Zombie Killah” PERFECT! If zombies ever start poppin’ up, I’m makin’ one! 🙂

Also, gotta love it when Roger dubs himself “‘the red shirt on the away party’ in homage to the Classic Star Trek show”.

STEPH’S COMMENTS ~
Now that Jenni & Katie are at the fort, it was fun seeing them interact with the others there.

Juan & Travis were great male counterparts to Jenni & Katie. Juan was just what Jenni needed – someone who loved her for who she’d had to become, a wild and crazy zombie killer. I was thrilled when Katie gave in to her feelings for Travis. She loved and lost her soulmate, Lydia, but she deserved happiness in her “new” life too. I was also happy that Jenni found her stepson, Jason.

Overall Thoughts ~
I thought Rhiannon did a great job of showing how many different people from different cultures and ways of life would interact in this type of enclosed environment, but one where you depend on those around you whether you like them or not. It’s down to each of you to make sure that the community stays safe and is able to continue to grow.

AMES’ COMMENTS:This one covered about 4 months and ends with Christmas, 9 months after the first day. The newly established community begins to organise themselves by electing a mayor, searching for supplies, rescuing survivors and attempting to expand their living quarters as safely as possible. This is interrupted by a crime, a serious one in which everyone has an opinion on how to judge and punish the perpetrator but the decision is taken out of the peoples’ hands when an unknown vigilante takes action. Having to deal with those who completely abandoned their humanity meant more tough decisions had to be made, doing previously unethical and criminal acts in order to do protect the majority. The old adage “the needs of the few outway the needs of the many” came to mind. I loved all of this. They really were “fighting to survive”.

#3

Siege

First publication: August 13th 2009


Description from Goodreads:

As the survivors continue to seek stability in their lives,
forces both inside and outside the fort walls move
them toward a final, climactic conflict between
the living and the dead. Jenni, Katie and the others
discover that they are not alone, that there is another
enclave of survivors whose leaders plan to take over the fort.

Faced with a series of difficult decisions, each choice they
make could lead to the deaths of those they love or, if not
careful, their own demise.

Meanwhile, an army of the dead is descending on the fort.
Soon, the living will face their ultimate fear…

…a siege by the dead.

But they will fight to the end to survive…

As the world dies.

STEPH’S REVIEW

ATWD: Siege opens with a letter from Dr. Pus (seriously?!) of the Library of the Living Dead Press and Podcast. He warns the reader right away that “‘Seige’ will answer all the questions you’ve been wanting to ask since you read ‘The First Days’ and ‘Fighting to Survive’. Rhiannon addresses them all, but you won’t like some of the results. That’s because she is such a talented writer that her characters are ones you have come to love, care about, have empathy and sympathy for. Her characters are us. And even though we all want them to win, it just isn’t always possible in Rhiannon’s universe.” And already, before even starting the book, I’m wondering … who won’t survive? what’s going to happen? … even more so than after reading Fighting to Survive.

Rhiannon describes the trilogy as “…the tale of two women who find a rare and powerful friendship at the end of the world and help rebuild a new one through love and sacrifice.”

I don’t want to spoil the series for anyone who hasn’t yet discovered it. The title says it all, as well as the introduction from Doc. It’s now time for the fort group to fight, more than just zombies, as the fort comes under siege.

The kids at the fort join the fight, “inventing diabolical ways to take out the zombies”. More new characters join the group. One of them, Rune, has the ability to see ghosts. But, in this new world, he’s not the only one. “…They haven’t really moved on. They’re all around us. All the time. Some are stronger in this world than in the other, but they are all caught between the world of the living and the dead. It got all messed up. All the dead rising like that. The natural order of things got screwed up.” Other additions to the fort feel they are better than the rest of the group and don’t need to contribute, but deserve to be waited on since that’s the life they have become accustomed to.

The group realizes that “…every moment of happiness … {is} sweeter because of every other horrible moment {they’ve} experienced…”. They are all trying to live their “new life” to the fullest, taking joy out of the little things while battling the threats they face each day.

Very few books make me cry, but this one had me bawling! Seriously, snot and sniffles. It was ugly. I had to walk away from the book several times, but quickly returned because I just had to find out what happened next. I couldn’t read it fast enough, yet I wanted it to last longer knowing it was the end of one of the best trilogies I’ve ever read. Don’t get turned off – this book is not all tears, there are definite moments of happiness for the fort family.

Did I mention … THIS IS A MUST-READ series!!

*****Favorite Scenes/Quotes (Possible Spoiler Alert)*****

Chapter 6

“‘And what do you do if you see a zombie?’ Nerit asked in a loud voice.

‘Poke it in the eye!’

The chorus of children’s voices made Jenni look over …. a group of twenty kids, all ages, had gathered around Nerit and a dummy made up to look like a zombie. The kids all held the fort’s makeshift spears.

‘And then what do you do?’

‘Stake it hard!’

‘Why?’

‘To make their brain soup!’ some little wise-ass called out. The kids broke up into wild peals of laughter.

Nerit smiled slightly, then ordered, ‘Okay, line up! Let’s make zombie brain soup!'”

Chapter 8

Lenore and Ken, her gay best friend, are heading outside the fort …

Lenore asks Ken: “So why did you come?”

Ken crossed his legs and gave her his most annoyingly cute look. “Guess.”

“Dale.”

“That was easy!

Lenore scowled at him. “You do realize, twinkle toes, that we are going into a highly dangerous situation where we will most likely get our asses eaten.”

“He’s really cute, don’t you think? All rugged and strong. Dreamy,” Ken said, smiling widely.

“Eaten. By Zombies. Not a cute guy. A zombie.”

“You do realize I only heard the words ‘eaten’ and ‘cute guy’ just then.”

Another Lenora & Ken moment …

Ken tells Lenora “{Felix} likes you.”

When she doesn’t believe him, he tells her it’s kinda funny because “…Dale signed up {for this mission} to be part of the fort. I signed up to impress him with my prowess. You signed up to save my ass. And Felix signed up to watch yours. It’s the circle of life.”

Chapter 34

Super nasty gore moment

“…the first zombie to swim into view was vile beyond belief. A large woman, half eaten, her womb torn open to reveal the fetus inside, its small limbs moving, came into sharp view… Ewwwwwwww! Love it!

So happy to read, in Rhiannon’s letter to the reader at the end, that she … will never rule out diving back into deadlands to see how {the characters} are shaping their new world…”. YES, PLEASE! MORE!

STEPH’S COMMENTS~
As always, Jenni & Katie are my favorites. But, the addition of Rune was very interesting. I wanted to know more about him.

Lenore and Ken were an absolute riot! I loved them! I laughed out loud just about every time they had a scene.

The kids, in this one, really came to the forefront. Their need to prove they could help with the fort’s protection and proving that fact, was so much fun to read. They came up with some wicked inventions. The scene with Nerit training them was awesome.

Overall Thoughts ~
As I mentioned in my review, I bawled. I have never cried so much while reading a book. I had to put it down and walk away. But, I couldn’t stay away from it for long because I was equally anxious to find out what else was going to happen.

AMES’ COMMENTS: I’ll admit right now: I couldn’t stop myself from reading the ending. I needed reassurance that the people I’d grown to respect and care for would survive. Of course, not everyone did. In fact, my favourite character had died. I was devastated so I put the book down until recently when I gathered my courage and soldiered through. There are many deaths from differing causes: a common one was suicide (committed for varying reasons) which was sometimes preferable to the alternative.

The diverse nature of the population of survivors created much conflict. They were of differing ethnicities, religions, morals and sexuality. I loved this aspect. Intolerance and political (and social class) aspirations and the resulting manipulations were the source of many problems the survivors had to contend with. The thinning of the veil between the living and the dead was understandable when there were more corpses than living, breathing people.

My favourite bits
The discussion of whether a zombie was male or female until we see their naked groin. Ick. Ick. Ick.
The head in a flower pot.
Using toasters to decapitate the dead.


~Overall Thoughts on Trilogy ~

STEPH

Throughout reading this trilogy, I was able to visualize the story in each book as if it were a movie. In fact, I’d LOVE it if it were made into a movie.The gory descriptions of the zombies {eg: Baby Benji’s little fingers under the door and “…the first zombie to swim into view was vile beyond belief. A large woman, half eaten, her womb torn open to reveal the fetus inside, its small limbs moving, came into sharp view… “} were SO gross, yet awesome!

I could picture how, if we experienced a zombie apocalypse, these random people would interact with each other. The relationships felt so real.

This was my first zombie series. I think it’ll be one that will be hard for any other to live up to.

5++★!

AMES

This was a brilliant trilogy showcasing the very best and worst that humanity has to offer. Every character has a unique personality. I cheered when they triumphed, grieved the losses of life and felt frustration at conflicts and failures. I was happy when new loves were found and sad when they felt guilty for surviving and living their lives when their loved ones were dead. However, survival meant that even good people did things that logically may be wrong but in the fight to live and breathe and protect those you love makes these acts were justifiable. Despite emotional breakdowns and moments of weakness I admired the strength and resourcefulness of them all, although a couple of characters had crazy on their side (like Calhoun) and we learn that they weren’t as crazy or as paranoid as we first believed. Even the loonies proved they were useful and needed.

Every aspect of society were represented: the old and the young, the disabled, politicians, the social classes, disaster relief agencies, the criminal justice system, the military as well as personal characteristics: the selfless, the honourable, the brave and the weak, and the list goes on.

All of this makes me I wonder how I would do their situation. Would I commit suicide? Would I seek safety in numbers or be a loner? How selfless would I be? Could I sacrifice myself for others? I don’t know.

I laughed and I cried throughout this trilogy. It all felt so real. I highly recommend everyone with a strong stomach to read these books so they can experience this vivid reality for themselves.

part of “Zombie Awareness Month”