By Sarah Hans
Wendig, Chuck. Double Dead (Tomes of the Dead). Abaddon (November 15, 2011). 320pp. USD $9.99. ISBN-10: 1907992413. ISBN-13: 978-1907992414.
Novels about the zombie apocalypse are a dime a dozen these days; novels with vampire protagonists are just about as common. What Chuck Wendig does with his latest novel, Double Dead, is combine the two themes into one fantastic, undead gorefest.
Double Dead is the story of Coburn, a badass vampire with attitude to spare. He’s like the anti-Edward Cullen: the kind of vampire who kills humans, in gruesome ways, without remorse. He adopts a cute, lovable terrier and names it ‘Creampuff’ because he plans to make it dessert later – he’s just that cold-hearted. Don’t you love him, already?
Awakened from a long, blood-deprived sleep, Coburn finds himself in the midst of the zombie apocalypse, with his only food source turned into putrid, inedible “rotters”. Coburn realises that his survival depends upon the survival of the human race. Enter Kayla, a sick girl with magical blood. She’s part of a group of survivors trying to find their way to the West Coast, where rumour has it that a CDC laboratory is trying to find a cure for the zombie plague. Kayla and her friends possess what Coburn needs – human blood – and he can provide what they need – protection from cannibals, rotters, and whatever else stands between them and California.
Thus begins an uneasy alliance against a world-gone-mad. Coburn constantly fights against the beast within that urges him to destroy his “herd” rather than protect it. Kayla is conflicted about her decision to trust the vampire. Creampuff just hopes to find a few squirrels to eat. Along the journey, they meet an epically obese cannibal queen, a kingdom of juggalos, and a host of holy warriors determined to destroy humanity in order to save it.
Double Dead may sound like a romp through well-worn territory – and, in some ways, it is – but I couldn’t put it down. The chapters, especially at the beginning, are so short you could call them bite-sized. The action is nearly constant. The story is given depth by revelations about Coburn’s origins, Kayla’s illness, and the source of the zombie plague. The story’s emotional centre is, surprisingly, the powerful relationship forged between Coburn and those he has promised to protect – including Creampuff, the dog who should have been dessert.
My favourite feature of the book, however, and what makes it stand out in a sea of zombie-apocalypse emulators, wasn’t just the vampire protagonist. Coburn quickly learns that zombies who get a taste of his blood become something more and these horrifying “super-zombie” creatures pursue him throughout the novel until a massive climax. As a result of this compelling action, this is a book that is easily read in one or two sittings. Block out time for it; otherwise, you might end up like me: exhausted, at two o’clock in the morning, struggling to keep my eyes open, still reading. I had to know: What would become of sickly Kayla? How would Coburn stop his terrifying progeny? Would Creampuff survive the final confrontation?
Double Dead would be a great addition to any zombie apocalypse library, and would be an excellent gift choice for the zombie-lover on your gift list this holiday season…even if that zombie-lover is you.