Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Review: Guns, Booze & Zombies by G. Joseph ★★★

Guns, Booze & Zombies(Received E-copy from the author for review)

Once upon a time there was a girl who read a zombie book she didn't like (What?! I know!!), and wrote a frustration-filled rant review about it.

This review was then seen by another author working on his own zombie story, and he contacted the girl to thank her for writing her review because he said it helped him in shaping his own story. She was all pleased as punch about this, and offered to read his book to see how it came out.

This is the review of that book.

(Also, surprise! I'm the girl. :D)

(In case you didn't know.)

So, what did I think of "Guns, Booze & Zombies"? Overall, I thought it was on the high end of OK to good scale, but a little spit and elbow-grease would make it really shine.

I really enjoyed the concept and setting of this story: A zombie outbreak in Prohibition Era New York. It sounded intriguing - I don't think I've seen a 30s era zombie story before. (I mean, I've seen Nazi Zombies, but that's a whole different set of entrails there.) I was interested to see how Prohibition was worked into the story, and to get the feel for 30s NYC. But as much as I liked the concept, I did have some issues with the execution.

See what I did there?

Storywise, it was a little too skewed toward the "tell" side of the spectrum, and I wanted more "show". The Prohibition aspect felt sadly lacking, as was the Depression. They were mentioned, of course, but I never truly felt the impact of either one. They never felt like hardships. Benson is evicted, but since the story moves almost right into Escape From Zombie New York, the impact is dulled and I felt as if it was almost unimportant. For another example, we're told that Benson Doss and Emma have rekindled their romance, but this doesn't quite mean anything because 1) we didn't know they had one in the first place, and 2) randomly meeting up in a speakeasy and having a few drinks doesn't exactly scream "rekindled romance" to me. That says, "They're friends, and she's a forward thinking kind of gal that will buy a down-on-his-luck guy a drink." For me to believe the romantic aspect, I wanted to see them react to each other, be attracted to each other, to maybe talk things through and discuss where attempt #1 went sour, commit to trying again, that sort of thing. All of which I missed.

I wanted to really know the characters, and care about them, but I didn't really get that as much as I'd have liked. In fairness, this is a novella - it's only 117 pgs on my Nook. But there's a lot of stuff packed in those pages, and I feel like a little more focus on the characters would have brought a bigger impact when bad things happen to them. For example, when we find out about a character's softer side, which leads into a side plot, I was able to sympathize with him more and wanted things to work out for him. But I didn't really feel anything close to that connection with any of the other characters.

Two other big story issues affected my enjoyment of this one. First, the side plot I mentioned was never resolved. Maybe there's a 2nd book in the works, which wouldn't be a bad idea, since the second issue I have is the twist at the end which came out of left field. It was just... OK, maybe not as unbelievable as one aspect towards the end was... (view spoiler)[The group of remaining survivors meet up with the Army, and the commander instantly knows who Benson Doss is, and turns over command to him...? My suspension of disbelief turned into a lead weight on that one. (hide spoiler)]... but still out of left field.

Finally, my last issue is with the lack of editing. This book is badly in need of an editor. I mention this because, to my knowledge, I was sent a copy of the final, for-sale version. There were quite a lot of misused words, missing commas, unnecessary semi-colons, misspellings, and awkward syntax all over the place. Every instance of the word "quiet" was misspelled "quite", "site" and "sight" were used interchangeably, among other misuses. Also, it seemed that words were switched out in favor of "better" ones that made the sentence awkward in many cases. Often, the simpler word will fit more naturally into the sentence than a less commonly used one. Example: "We allow the team to gather some excess sleep." This just feels clunky to me. It would feel much more natural as "We allow the team to get some additional sleep."

I actually did enjoy the story, though, despite my complaints above - I was interested in seeing where it went and what happened, and if there was an explanation for everything. I really enjoyed the goriness of the fighting, and liked, oddly enough, the sentimentality some held toward their loved ones turned flesh-eating-corpses. I would be interested in reading the sequel, if there should be one. I definitely think that G. Joseph has potential. He's one to watch.

Also, as a side note, I would like to say that G. Joseph has been beyond courteous and professional in all of his messages to me. I thanked him privately for this, but, especially in light of the recent author/reader drama 'round the interwebs recently, I would like to publicly do so as well. 

So thank you G. Joseph, for remaining professional and pleasant. This is exactly the right way to go about the author/reader interaction. Best wishes for a successful and long career! :)