I had heard big things about Brian Keene and this novel in particular, plus I love zombies, so this was an obvious choice to read. I have to say though, I was pretty disappointed by it. The writing was so-so. The characters pretty thin. The plot twists readily visible. The ending anti-climactic.
The basic premise is…well, it’s a bit unclear. I find it odd that this was originally going to be a stand-alone (there is now a sequel, though I’m in no hurry to pick it up) because the origins of the whole mess are only confusingly hinted at and the ending isn’t much of an ending. In any event, for some reason, demonic beings from another dimension are now possessing every living creature that dies. And these “zombies” (even the animal ones) now have a human level of intelligence, an insatiable homicidal drive, and just slightly reduced speed and dexterity. It’s a wonder that as many people are still living as are seen here. We even see a goldfish die, get possessed, then try to kill someone. I found myself laughing at that, and I don’t think it was intentional on Keene’s part. How could the sheer number of undead squirrels, mice, and fish alone not kill everyone pretty much immediately? The protagonist — a divorcee dad — is in a bunker when he gets a cellphone call from his son, several states away. Then the phone cuts out. (He must have my crappy cellphone provider.) Thus begins an epic roadtrip to save his son who is holed up in an attic. Along the way he meets several other humans who help him, some cannibal rednecks (come on, why turn to cannibalism a mere two weeks after the fall of civilization?), zombie deer, lots of evil soldiers who run a mass rape and labor camp (military = bad, apparently), and lots more zombies.
To be sure, there are some creepy bits, and the action’s written pretty well, but when humanity is so clearly doomed from the outset, it’s much harder to get me excited about the book. I can really only recommend this one if you’re a zombie fiction completist or already a big fan of Keene’s work. I give The Rising 2.5 stars out of 5.
Review copyright 2010 J. Andrew Byers