Caution: This post is about the realities of what a zombie apocalypse would entail, and how someone like me represents those realities in his fiction. This subject was inspired by a negative review of Reviva Las Vegas!, but it is only tangentially related to that review.
Both of my blog followers may recall that yesterday I came to the conclusion that a bad review—as well as some mitigating comments in some good reviews—of my new novel, Reviva Las Vegas!, may have been caused by the extremely dark view of mankind (not to mention zombiekind) in the face of a true zombie apocalypse.
To be more specific, I believe the “not good” and “awfulness” comments are reactions to the extremely pessimistic view of what humans may do sexually when everything is lost. But let’s start with the idea of an actual zombie apocalypse. Not an outbreak, not even a war that we’re winning, but the scenario that civilization has ground to a halt and probably even taken steps backward when 9 out of 10 people on the planet are dead or undead.
A reader in Virginia writes:
Your latest blog post contradicts [the novel World War Z, for which I had earlier professed my love, and which (SPOILER ALERT) shows mankind winning the war against the undead, at least for the present]. It was always one of my faves because it convinced me humanity might have a chance [in a Class 3 zombie outbreak, if not a Class 4.]
He asked me first if I liked the novel, which of course I said no BECAUSE I LOVE THAT BOOK. (Ahem. Excuse me.) It is really grand and the plotting (along with everything else) is perfect. But recall that it is subtitled “An Oral History of the Zombie War.” By definition, an oral history of a war must be given (and collected) by survivors. And if there are actual survivors after a long and drawn-out zombie conflict, it means that the zombies didn’t win. (At least, not yet. And if they do try again, we’ll know how to fight them.) So the very title and subtitle of the book give readers a bit of what to expect.
If you have not read World War Z, go right now and get it and read it.
Okay, good job. Now, by definition, the zombie infestation in WWZ is a Class 3 outbreak—humans are right on the cusp of extinction, but mathematically (if adopting the right tactics and understanding of the enemy, as in the book) it’s still possible for humans to defeat the zombies.
Spoiler alert: We may win a “Zombie War.” But not in my novel.
In Reviva Las Vegas!, this is not the situation. Because of what would be an almost immediate breakdown of infrastructure, most human survivors have no idea what’s going on in the rest of the country, let alone the world. All they know is that there has been no word from anyone traveling through that humans are still in charge. It is Class 4, an undead world, even though pockets of humanity still live in isolated packs, if you will.
This is the situation in The Walking Dead, for example. There are isolated communities of humans who have so far survived due to luck or pluck, but the planet is lost. (There is no “cure” for zombiism because there is no cure for death, by definition. Ending the virus’s control of the dead body is the only “cure,” and that simply means the walking dead go back to being the lying-down-and-not-moving-anymore dead. A best-case scenario, but NOT a cure.)
Anyway, whether people enjoy it or not, some stories about worldwide zombie outbreaks are going to be quite dark even if their treatments offer a bit of levity on the way to the hangman’s noose. Reviva Las Vegas! is such a book. And now we come to the sex part of the discussion.
Ever heard of PTSD? Ever heard of “life in wartime”?
At the end of the world, when seriously all hope is gone and you’re just trying to survive long enough to … well, hell, you don’t even really know why you’re trying to survive, since all you’re doing is living hardscrabble while you wait to die or be turned undead; at this point in history, you are not following the rules of civilization. You follow only the dictates of your own conscience—and herein is the rub:
You’re not going to be the same person you were before 8 years of hunger; 8 years of almost constant fear and often panic; 8 years of sleeping with one eye open so you aren’t killed or your sack of necessities taken from you, which amounts to the same thing. The people you loved are gone, maybe dead, maybe worse. You have probably killed other people out of necessity, or out of the anticipation of necessity. Or out of fear, or hunger, or need. That is to say:
You will follow the dictates of your own conscience, but that conscience and those dictates are NOT going to be the same as they were before the dead rose.
And that is especially true when it comes to sex. Women, men, makes no difference—if you see an advantage, a way of getting something you want or need in a world that has denied it for almost a decade, you take it. If the partner is underaged by our human-world standards, that probably isn’t going to make a bit of difference in the zombocalypse.
Let me make it clear that there is no rape in Reviva Las Vegas!, and perhaps this is implausible in the big picture. But this novel is the story of one person, the vagabond poker player trying to come live in a zombie-free paradise. And his conscience stops short of any kind of forcible sexual encounter, whether mental or physical. Others aren’t better or worse in the post-zomboc world, at least not by our comfortable standards, because there are no normative standards in this world. No laws, not even enough people to form a posse and hang a bad person.
There can be more to a zombie novel than FUNTIME WHEEEE. You may find it horrifying. That is the idea.
So Reviva‘s sexual portrayals of teenagers having sex is maybe distasteful to us sitting back and wanting a wacky, Zombieland-style, we’re-all-in-this-together flavor of apocalypse, and that’s fine … but that isn’t what Reviva Las Vegas! is. A world where zombies are the dominant species is a world of Hell, worse than you may think, especially when a key to zom-free Heaven is dangled right in front of your nose, as it is to our hero in the novel.
If you want to know exactly what happens, please do buy the book, read it, and leave a review somewhere. I want to know what you think of a “zombie expert’s” take on a Class 4 Zombie Outbreak once you’ve read it. The purchase links are below, and don’t forget you can read the first half online for free.
And to my very conscientious and honorable reviewer who didn’t want to write a bad review and seem ungrateful, I truly appreciate you. You have made me think of not only my book, but the entire concept of an undead world, in a deeper, more rigorous way.