The Rising - by Brian Keene - a book review
Now I have several disclaimers to state, right upfront, which have important weight on my opinions of this book.
1: Brian Keene wrote this book, figuratively speaking, at least 100 years ago (in other words, I am coming – not only late to the party – but after the legend of the party has been made into a million spin-off movies) on stone tablets on some mountain near to a guy with a beard who took the credit for the work.
Honestly, Brian is pretty much the “goto” authority on zombies, so he has every right to produce this “Authors preferred copy”, which adds stuff to the original that was cut, but - not having read that original abbreviated edition - I can’t revue the comparison to the “original” - though I don’t feel the longer novel dragged, was overly wordy or lost its impact after those cut words were re-instated.
2: I am not a gore fan. I don’t watch horror movies because they scare me.
I know – that is a wuss thing to say, but it's who I am – I want to be horrified, enthralled, enrapt in characterization, logic, and environment, but I don’t actually want to see it because, well, I am a wuss. I got through “Alien”, “Aliens”, and I think that is about it. I watched “I am legend” and “World War Z” because my son wanted to watch them, and I think I may have held his hand at some point in the movies, for me. Not him. So that’s my level of street cred. I have not watched any zombie tv series like "The walking dead" or "Znation" or "The golden girls", it’s all too real and in my face and there is gore everywhere or at the very least aggressive perms.
If I read it, it’s somehow happening elsewhere, and I can deal with more or less anything. If I see it, I squirm at a paper cut on the big screen.
I know. It’s not cool.
So, after all of that, I was pretty much in the opening chapters of Brian’s book when I realized that this is gore/full-on slasher horror – only with thinking zombies. And that actually made a hell of a lot of difference to my enjoyment of the book. This is my first real full-on zombie gore horror book, and I embraced it as a new genre (for me) to explore. And it worked, and it read like popcorn cinema, held my attention for the full unabridged addition, and had some nice surprise brutal killings and character deaths.
I think in a book like this where the zombies have an overwhelmingly distinct advantage over the humans left alive, the focus can’t possibly be anything other than individual survival, and that focused on different groups of people, so Brian nailed his diversity of characters. Their personalities were all sufficiently different, their struggles real and their motivations (to the larger part), clear and believable. I liked that the author was brutal to his characters, there are main characters deaths in here, each getting its own distinct send-off, so the deaths were memorable, and the fact that those characters can then come back as re-animated zombies give the whole book a series feel – I feel positive that certain characters will be revisited in the following books in the series – that and the cliff hanger Brian leaves the book on make it definite “buy the next book now” kind of reading.
(Mr. Keene also has a beard. I am in the minority)
The writing is concise, clear, easy to read. Mr. Keene has won the Horror Grandmaster Award and two Bram Stoker Awards, and written way over 50 books, I mean, the man’s a legend, so what do I know (papercut guy here, remember)? Attempting to critique his work is akin to blasphemy, and I don’t have the benefit of a beard to hide behind (I have learned from the cinema that "with great beards, comes great responsibility").
I’m glad that my first ever book from Mr. Keene was the first in the Rising series and his debut novel. It’s a world away from what I am used to, and what I have encountered before, and that’s a large part of what makes Horror such a fantastic genre to have settled into. I also loved the ending, yes, it’s frustrating but is a reflection on my own views that threads have to be left open if a fair representation of a believable world is to be made. And what a thread to leave open! Dammit.
Brian makes it look easy. And the confidence ringing throughout the book leaves me in no doubt that I am going to have to extend my collection.
5 out of 5 ⭐for the ballsy debut of a living legend, and a great week of snatching reading time and peeking through my fingers. Can’t wait for "With teeth", coming up soon, and I'd love recommendations for reading orders from my peers and fellow readers, I'm the first in the humble-pie "just starting this stuff" queue. Just drop me a line on Twitter, I appreciate it.
Sorry, it took me so long to get to the party, Brian.
You can buy "The Rising" (American Amazon) HERE.
You can see Mr.Keene's website HERE.
Find Brian on Twitter HERE.
Find Brian on Facebook HERE.
Find Brian on Instagram HERE.