Friday, September 13, 2013

All That I See: A Review

Shane Gregory's All That I See is the second book in the zombie apocalyptic King of Clayfield Series.  It is set within the confines of the small Kentucky town of Clayfield, where the uninfected human population is dwindling fast.

We covered Shane Gregory's biography in the first book, so I won't go much further than saying he is a mid-30s museum director who works in the town of Mayfield, Kentucky.  The character is clearly modeled around him, and Clayfield is Mayfield, Kentucky.
The story line picks up after the initial surprise of zombies and the first efforts at survival have been made.  We are only a month or so into the story, so we are now getting into early spring.  Some of the major characters from the first novel are no longer with us.
Without getting into too many details, the story line involves the ever dwindling numbers of living, who often spend as much time fighting each other as the zombies, having various adventures.  Presumably many of the smart folks noted in book 1 are still off hiding in the wilderness.  Some of the characteristics  of the zombies, primarily their keen sense of smell at times, makes their survival a little more problematic.  But the other group of survivors, the ones dealt with here, the lucky ones, continue to show that they were lucky, and that most of them are slow learners.  Our main hero, admits to his luck on that point, but his learning curve isn't always as high as it aught to be either, as very basic, and easy, security measures are often neglected.
The book does a very good job of portraying the limited information available to people in a grid down situation.  All sorts of odd, unexplained events occur off screen, and are never really explained.  What happened to the horse trailer for instance?  You get the general drift of what is going on as it relates to our hero, but there is a lot of fuzziness at the edges.  When people become separated, it is very hard for them to find each other again.

The heroics start to get a bit fanciful.  Our museum director hero becomes much better with a weapon than one would think possible in such a short time.  Granted he gets a lot of "live action" practice, but the noisiness of the weapons precludes much actual target practice.  As our hero almost works overtime putting himself in harms way with dangerous people, we get a lot of cliff hanger style situational-escapes.  These are often well done, but turn the novel into more of an action-adventure page turner, than a well though out zombie apocalypse.

Too much time is spent mourning people who were dead back in the first book, and were not particularly sympathetically portrayed in the first place.  Whether an older guy should be hanging out a younger gal is mulled over endlessly.  And mulled is the correct word, as they are too busy running around for there to be many sparks flying in that direction.
Although the author still works at it, the personalities of the secondary characters don't come through as consistently.  There is a mother and son combination that we barely know exist, even though they are present in the room, and their eventual fate is not portrayed as being of much emotional importance to our hero.  That one silent kid, and a  college age student, who possibly is mentally handicapped, are it for the non-zombie youngsters.  Where are all the stay at home mom's with homeschooled kids?  They can follow CNN and learn the precautions just as well as an out of touch museum director.  The lack of characters outside of adult rednecks and middle class folks limits the range interactions.
It was a fun read, but I am not as enthusiastic about it as with the first novel in the series.

We now come to our two descriptive (not qualitative) ratings: 1 to 7 with 4 the mid-point and 7 high. Realism does not include the cause of the collapse or apocalypse, but is otherwise an assessment of how close to today's world is the setting. Could you imagine your friends, or families living through the situation. Readability is not literary merits, but literally how quick and painless of a read.

We gave the first novel a 5.  A very high number for a zombie novel.  The emphasis on high adrenaline high jinx with gas guzzling armored vehicles making an appearance, and overly heroic museum directors who can consistently take out multiple persons in one-against-many confrontations drops this one down to a 3.

Readability is pretty straight forward.  Although I was listening to this one, it is obvious from the pacing and chapter breaks that there is an element of a page turner here.  A very fast, straight forward read: a seven.

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