The Rising – Brian Keene

Originally posted on Blog-City in 2005 (or 2004, I don’t remember) 

I love zombies. No really I do. If you’ve been coming to this blog for any amount of time, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of the undead. If you didn’t know that, then what the hell did you think those things were at the top of the page?????

Anyway, I’ve been scrounging for zombie paraphernalia lately. My hunger for undead material is about as strong as the undead’s hunger for flesh! Thanks to a few new friends and co-zombie fans I’ve met online (Dave, Adam, and J) I’ve had my head turned in a few new directions. Comic books are something that I didn’t think I’d get back into at all. It’s not like I ever really WAS into comic books, even as a kid, but I didn’t swear them off. I’ve gotten hooked on “The Walking Dead” and anxiously await Issue #20 to be released. The Wif groans when she speaks of my new money pit (trust me, there’s not much money flowing through our house. Definitely not enough to make a new money pit) but she seems to have enjoyed a couple of the comics as well.

Anyway, I ramble on. This book was one that I’d seen glimpses of online and figured ‘aw what the hell’ and went ahead and bought it. Dave from MonkeyTherapy has been trying and what’s odd is I paid about 5-6 bucks for mine but Amazon is showing them listed now as $50+. Wha???? Anyway, I ordered it and as the days went by, my impatience got worse and worse. It finally came in the mail and from the minute I opened it up until the last page, I was hooked.

It’s very rare that I can get SO excited about a book that my adrenaline actually flows. It’s crazy I know, but so what? It’s a good sign to me when A BOOK has that effect on me.

The Rising begins with Jim hiding in his underground shelter listening to his undead wife shambling around above him. He’s got a periscope and some ammunition and a little case of cabin fever. Jim’s background is laid out pretty quickly and it’s written with such conviction that I almost wonder if it isn’t somewhat autobiographical of the author’s own personal life (well, without the zombies of course! I wonder because he thanks his own son and the dialogue of the character is mirrored in his “dedicated to” note). Jim’s a man who has gotten the raw end of the stick. His first wife divorced him and took their son several states away. Jim is in West Virginia and his ex lives in New Jersey. Jim and his new PREGNANT wife had taken refuge in the shelter at “the beginning of the end” and unfortunately, due to being cut off from all medical help, this new wife dies and Jim buries her under a tree in their yard. What Jim doesn’t realize (and what us zombie lovers KNOW!) is that if the brain is not dealt with, no burial depth will stop what is bound to happen. Which is exactly what happens. Jim’s 2nd wife, with child, comes back and draws other zombies to the shelter. Fortunately for Jim, he’s pretty well fortified and impregnable and the most they’ve done is unearthed the shelter to its concrete foundation. That’s where their digging has stopped.

Jim can hear the scratching and loping around on the lawn, however, and is gradually going crazy. Then his cell phone rings. Since the ENTIRE WORLD is gone, in his mind, he can’t fathom who would possibly be calling his cell phone. He doesn’t answer and is surprised when a minute later his voicemail light is lit. He calls to listen to his voicemail and is punished by the voice of his son speaking in a scared whisper, telling Jim that “mommy’s real sick and Rick (the step dad) is one of those things, trying to get in”. Jim’s resolve is steeled for action and he makes the perilous journey out of his shelter, thru his house, and down the street, trying to reach New Jersey no matter what the risk to him. His son is still alive and he’s damn sure going to try and reach him.

So begins the book. The ride doesn’t slow down the entire time. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time. Damn, I hate that metaphor. I wasn’t always sitting down when I read it so I can’t actually use that cliché. Hmmm, what else can I use? I was spellbound. Nope, that’s pretty cheesy too. I was insanely interested in the book (that works!) and was almost angry when I had to be interrupted (sleep, eating, bathing. They meant NOTHING to me!!! Just kidding, ewwwww).

The author takes the zombie idea and, while clinging to the basic premise of slow movement (muscle atrophy would severely limit movement of corpses, as we’ve discussed in the past), takes it up a notch. These zombies can talk. These zombies can drive. These zombies can operate weaponry. Yes, they are slow but they are relatively intelligent in battle. I suppose that the argument can be raised again that this type of zombie methodology can be chalked up as heresy but with so little out there to satiate us zombie fans, I’ll eat any of it up.

The author does some explaining of how and why the zombies are the way they are. He gives us a story of science gone wrong, of a portal being opened (Doom, anyone?) and a pathway created for evil beings to possess human “husks”. With such a malevolent entity, of course there is thinking involved. World domination is the goal, and the author does a good job of making it work. He even introduces a NEW concept in zombies. Animal zombies.

Yep, that’s right. You read that right. Animal zombies. We’re talking birds, snakes, squirrels, rats, etc etc. I enjoyed the idea of having animal zombies. Although they can’t fulfill all the functions that humans would, they give a more menacing thrill to me. The concept that a lot of the previous places that you could hide in zombie movies are null and void is pretty damn scary. Noone has addressed this issue (at least what I know of anyway, I could be proven wrong and welcome the opportunity because it would give me more material to check out!) in the past. He even uses this concept as a method for zombies reproducing. There is one passage in the book where he talks about a woman who was birthing a calf out in their garage and the calf is stillborn. The mother dies along with her stillborn calf and the human character sits in the stable and cries (she’s real sensitive). She cries so long and hard that she doesn’t notice when the deceased bovines make their way back up. I like how the author introduces the concept but doesn’t really make it cheesy. There is a definite degree of panic and immediacy to the animal undead that refuses to become cheesy, unneeded gore.

Along his trip to New Jersey, Jim is accompanied by several characters.

* Martin, an elderly black priest who is holding on to his faith even after all he has seen.
* Frankie, a reformed drug addict and prostitute whose attitude problem saves her ass on several occasions (and gives for some pretty silly one-liners)
* Worm, a mentally handicapped young man who, when asked where his parents are, says “mice eat Mommy”.
* Professor Baker, the guilt-ridden scientist whose experiment has opened up the previously mentioned portal and who has watched his two closest colleagues die towards the beginning.
* Skip, a National Guardsman who is attempting to be the voice of reason for his Guard unit that has gone out of control.

Jim’s journey, like I said, involves all these characters, along with cannibalistic humans, and the National Guard unit who has gone insane. He runs into plenty of zombies along the way and there are battles galore.

The book ends with a cliffhanger (of course!) and the sequel, “City of the Dead” just came in the mail on Tuesday of this week. I’ve started that one and it picks up right where “The Rising” leaves off and just like Rising, grabs you and pulls you in right away.

For my fellow zombiephiles out there, I’d say that you should definitely give this one at least one read. I’m looking forward to even more zombie lore as the genre seems to be on the rise currently. That’s a good thing, in my opinion.

By the way, if you know of anything that I may not have read or seen, direct me that way! You can email me at crzydjm AT gmail DOT com or leave me a comment. Check out my current “Wish List” on Amazon and see what I have listed so far.

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