Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Book of Riley: A Review

Mark Tufo's The Book of Riley: A Zombie Tale is the first part of a two-part series of zombie apocalypse novels set on the U.S. West Coast.  In it a young teenage girl, with her baby brother are trying to find there way to safety in the middle of a classic zombie outbreak.  What makes this story different is that it is told from the point of view of the three family pets (two dogs, one cat) that are going along with her, and trying to keep her safe.

Mark Tufo is a native of Boston, Massachusetts. After he graduated from Amherst he joined the U.S. Marine Corp.  Since leaving the Corp, he has worked for the Human Resources Department of a large financial institute. While still in college he wrote his science fiction series, Indian Hill.  But did not release it until 2009.   The Zombie Fallout series followed.  The author now lives in Maine with his wife and three children.

The Book of Riley series does not appear to be within the same story setting as the Zombie Fallout series.  This novel does follow its pattern of being a first person narrative.  The difference in this case is that the narrator is a female English bulldog.

The novel follows a fairly typical zombie apocalypse sequencing except that there is even less lead up to the causes of the outbreak.  Written from the dogs point of view, the zombies just show up one night in the backyard, and precede to eat up most of the family.  The dogs, and father of the family put up a valiant fight, but in the end, only the teenage daughter and infant brother are able to escape the surprise attack. 

Like many Disney classics, the animals are able to speak with each other, and understand the humans, but (other then barking at them) cannot talk to the humans.  In extremis, the bulldog can take out one zombie, but in general the two dogs are more useful for their sense of smell, and ability to trip up the zombies during their mad rush.  The cat is a bit more worldly than the dogs, and on occasion can be murder on zombie eyes.

For a novel with a lot of dead people, it is relatively light fare.  The pets don't have a lot of enthusiasm for each other at the start of the affair, and the Bulldog keeps threatening to eat the cat.  But as time goes on they get to be pretty good at working together.  It all turns into an odd road trip, taking place over a only a few weeks of time.

So what did I think?  It was  somewhat enjoyable, if a bit trite.  This is not series animal drama in the sense of White Fang, or a tear jerker like Old Yeller.  The argumentative banter got to be old pretty quickly.  The pets acted a lot like little combative siblings.  So lets call it a qualified recommendation.

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.

It's an unexplained zombie breakout with talking dogs and cats. There is some stab at worrying about provisions, but with most everyone dead, that is only a matter of dodging zombies while finding food.  Lets but it this way, even if you were a devout believer in reincarnation, and you thought you were going to come back as a family pet,  you would not find this to be a likely scenario.  It is a one.

Readability is straightforward, first person narrative, with relatively few complications.  At times, it is a page turner.  It's a six.


kymber said...

and this is why we all love to read your reviews! yer awesome, buddy!

your friend,

James M Dakin said...

I think spending money on zombie fiction is a stretch as it is. Combining that with Disney Drivel ( although I'll admit I've fallin a time or two for the intelligent animal meme- such as The Rats Of Nimpth as a wee lad ) is really pushing the "charging us to read" envelope.

russell1200 said...

Kymber: Thanks!

James: No doubt its an odd combination. Some of the zombie fiction reminds me a lot of the EMP derived collapse fiction. An excuse to mayhem.

The zombie fiction is better written, and doesn't take itself as seriously. Both are only so so as stand ins for other disasters, with zombies being worse than EMP. The impossibility of prepping for zombies (and most pandemic scenarios also have this problem) also is a drawback. The "realism" of zombies is usually pretty low, and with talking animals its in the elves and hobbits category. I am going to listen/read a few of them and then likely move on.