Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Harrowers

Novelette by Eric Gregory

A wilderness guide in post-apocalyptic North Carolina is hired to help a man track down his father: a Southern preacher who decided his calling was to go out and minister to the zombies. The preacher himself is a fun old man when they find him, and he does have quite a way with the dead. He's easily my favorite character in the story, although it's really much more about the guide himself, by the end anyway.

This is a somewhat light-hearted western / zombie apocalypse / action story, fairly pulpy, but it's very good at what it does. The characters are motivated by greed, by debt, by faith, or by just wanting to survive another day, not by heroism or a sense of adventure. There is a particularly modern focus on debt and how the crime lord uses economics to keep the town under his control and manipulate other criminals and those on the fringe of legality. Safety from zombies is definitely a trade-off in a corrupt frontier town, one most people have to take.

I like the exceptionally human, often criminal, motivations of most of the characters. Even the off-screen crimelord and the woman who drives the truck seem more motivated, more real, and less generic types than they might in other stories. The kid, the guide, and the father are all much more interesting, especially in their conflicting desires to run away from or embrace what passes for civilization in this world. And a fine apocalypse it is, too. I leave you with one image: bio-engineered cyborg zombie bears!

4 cyborg zombie bears out of 5.

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