Zombie novels, eh? This genre of horror is certainly limited in its scope. We all know how the rules work with the undead, so going into a story like this one you kind of know how it’s going to play out.
And that is absolutely fine. No one reads zombie books or watches zombie movies to be amazed and surprised; we just want gore and terror soaked across the pages or screen.
Stage 3 certainly delivers on the gore front. Throughout this book are numerous zombie deaths, described in viscera-splattered detail. We know what a zombie looks like, but having the particulars of their festering bodies and resemblances to their previous lives described vividly, really brings the story to life.
But one thing a zombie story needs is a likeable protagonist who you genuinely hope survives the apocalypse. In Stage 3, you get two.
Mason is a guy down on his luck and staring down the end of a bottle, or twenty. His girlfriend recently dumped him, so he’s feeling a little crappy about himself. So what better time for a strange virus to spread throughout the city, turning its victims to animalistic, flesh-eating monsters?
During his travels he encounters a young girl of ten, Mackenzie, and the two instantly bond. It’s their story of survival that carries the book. It’s tricky to have a coherent plot in a zombie novel, as by the time the plague takes hold, everywhere is basically the same. But here, although this is true, Mason and Mackenzie’s relationship develops nearly as quickly as the undead outbreak.
When infected, humans lose their sight. This is first stage. As you can guess from the title there are two more. There are no guide dogs or white sticks to aid in their escape from the more developed monsters, so carnage and death ensues pretty soon after. This degeneration into different stages of zombies was a nice touch and gave the story some originality.
There was nothing majorly new injected into the zombi-verse here, but that wasn’t what I was reading it for. I was hungry for some gross-out deaths and salivating undead beasts, and that’s exactly what I got.
The first chapter, where strange things happen without the characters having any knowledge of what is going on, was gripping. It had humour and creepiness in equal measure. It’s hard to continue the humour through a story such as this, but Mason’s dry wit and internal monologue did provide some welcome moments to chuckle at.
This unlikely duo spend the novel on a mission to find Mackenzie’s aunt. Although it seems impossible she’ll still be alive, it provides the motivation for Mason to not give up on life, or indeed his new best friend.
I believe this is the first of a trilogy so I’m excited to delve further into Ken Stark’s undead world of necrotic depravity.
If you’re looking for a fun zombie ride then Stage 3 will most certainly deliver on that front. And who doesn’t love a bit of gory undead fun?
Categories: book review