This is my first Empowering Lemon Bundt Wednesday and the reference will probably be lost on most but it is a Buffy the Vampire Slayer quote from when Willow goes to join the Wicca circle at UC Sunnydale. Inspite of the tongue and cheek meaning to the comment it is meant to infer that the members have a mean amount of girl power. My Wednesday blog posts will be for books with heroines who kick serious boot-ay!
The first urban warrior to be featured is Emma Taylor, the zombie slaying survivor of an apocalypse started when her sister becomes patient zero after a mysterious bite on a family camping trip. The Last Alive is a very fast paced novel. From the first page it takes off and there are no lulls or pauses. Tension is created by an alternating look between the fortified Pittsburgh she lives in present time with flashbacks to the initial outbreak and it leaves the reader caught precariously between the panic of then and desperation of now.
At the introduction Emma watches her sister Becca die and against all medical understanding comeback as a feral monster who looks familiar but leaves Emma with a world of confusion and mired in disbelief. The plague quickly sweeps through the Pittsburgh hospital which they are located at and through a series of bites and attacks spreads to epic proportions. During the chaos Emma meets a young daughter who at first thinks she is delusionally misunderstanding how physiology and biology works but in only minutes realizes that she may be right and together quickly find that the world will never be the same.
Fast forward five years.
Zombie/undead movies and books are all fairly similar and this book does not vary far from any of the cult greats. Emma is a great example of girl can-do, although I do question her logic quite often. A good soldier isn’t guided so much by her emotions–but at the same time desperation often drives friends and lovers to do incredible things. I did really like that she had a firm grasp of her own mortality and the ability to protect herself and a sense of self-preservation. During action scenes she doesn’t act as foolishly as she does in other times so I don’t get that grind my teeth and cry feeling that would happen if she acted like the girl who always has to die first in horror movies.
While reading the book I did feel sometimes like there was a disconnect between characters despite the fact that they might be having some sort of conversation or interaction at the time. I think the reason for it is because the emotions of the characters weren’t always in agreement for the situation and it came across as awkward. It is a writing skill to balance characters so one doesn’t overwhelm a scene. I don’t think that H.L. Wampler has worked out how to do this successfully just yet but she has a great deal of promise because she grasps character building. Often Emma’s mother’s histrionics became a burden to the story rather than an asset to the scene. Making an over-bearing mother versus causing a your reader to feel they are being introduced to a cliché or stereotype makes all the difference because one will feel natural to the story and the other will be like glass shattering.
There are a number of grammatical and spelling errors in this book. It could have done with a much better editor to challenge a lot of the situations and dialogue, but this is H.L. Wampler’s first published novel and it is a very good showing. I’m very interested in her future fairy tale retold book and look forward to checking that out when that is published. The novel Cutlass Anne will be released in February of 2014 from Soul Mate Publishing.
When I consider the fact that this is a horror novel and it is a look at the subject as beloved to horror fans as the undead I really feel that this is one of those books that a lot of readers could really enjoy this as a casual read. I’d recommend this for a kick back fall weekend. If you enjoy that giddy-up and go, no time to stop if you want to stay alive type of read, pick it up.
This week my Morning Tea with The Author is with H.L. Wampler.
*This post was updated 10/23/2013 with the new title Tongue Wagger – The Last Alive by H.L. Wampler and a new category Tongue Wagger. This was due to an internal error with the original category that could not be fixed.