Riley Jameson is a regular guy. A little hard-of-luck and going through a rough time at work, but nothing he can’t handle.
That was before the creatures rose. Feasting on human flesh, their hunger is insatiable. The zombies are unstoppable. The police are gone. The government has collapsed. The world as Riley knew it has changed, forever.
In this new, terrifying world, Riley is forced to think quickly and act fast in order to survive. As he encounters numerous skin-crawling scenarios, his morals are pushed to the very limit, forcing the question: can humanity survive the onslaught of the dead, not only on the outside but on the inside? The answers often prove unsettling in this unique zombie apocalypse series unlike any other.
There will be blood. There will be tears. In the Dead Days, nobody is safe.
So, with that advertised summary out of the way, I first noticed the book Dead Days as it was being advertised as being given away for free so I thought, why not give it a try? It is written by British author Ryan Casey who has written over a dozen novels so far, mainly within the horror or thriller genres. Some of his most popular writings include The Sinkers Series, What We Saw, Infection Z and this, The Dead Days Series. This review is focused on Season One of Dead Days and there are currently 6 Seasons available as well as a side story or two based on characters from the main plot.
The books are written in a slightly different manner to what I am used to reading as they are written in the manner of TV series’ with a certain amount of episodes per season and even with episodes having endings that are suited perfectly to television with cliff hangers and such. Luckily, you don’t have to wait a week before finding out what happens next here though – just turn the page and continue. I quite liked this style of breaking down the story that Ryan Casey has used and often found myself naturally reading it one episode a night. I am not sure I would have enjoyed it initially as they were released an episode at a time and that isn’t a lot of reading.
In Season 1, there are a total of 6 episodes which are also all broken down to have a prologue and a collection of chapters and this review will cover all of them as one, rather than 6 separate reviews.
The initial parts of the story see us introduced to Riley who appears to be on a bit of a losing streak and we join him with that streak continuing as he loses his job. He speaks with his Grandmother on the phone and, not wanting to disappoint her, tells her he is doing well and he decides to go see her and speak to her face to face. It is around now that things within the world start becoming strange for Riley as he notices accidents and violence erupting in pockets around him.
Upon returning to his flat which he shares with Ted (who is pretty much a waste of space), he notices a car with blood everywhere and has his first full on encounter with what we all know as a zombie. Riley runs for it and gets in to his flat where he explains to Ted what is happening, or what little he knows. Ted, who doesn’t want to leave his Xbox behind, eventually decides to stay with Riley who has decided to try and get out of the flat and go get his Grandmother.
A chaotic scene ensues as the dithering duo make a complete hash of their attempted escape and are accosted by a lady who has a gun and wants their vehicle. Eventually they convince the lady that they should work together and the slowly growing group head off to find Riley’s relative, who also lives in the countryside making it a safer, less populated place to be right now.
On the way to Riley’s Grandmother’s house, they run into a blockage on the road where an oil tanker is sideways and blocking access and is surrounded by the dead. The lady, Jordanna, is in the process of reversing it when the dead get too close and Riley and Ted make the sudden decision to leave her there to die. It isn’t a decision taken lightly on Riley’s part and adds a layer of interest to a slightly stupid character who starts to really suffer with guilt and confusion from the decisions being made by him and others during these dark times. Things continue to get worse for them when they reach Grandma’s house only to find her no longer there and them ambushed by hordes of the dead again though they do escape with their lives, just. Not long after that, they run into another group (they get captured) and it is this second group that become the main focus of the story along with Riley and Ted.
Holed up in the upstairs of a Chinese restaurant, we now get too meet quite a few of the stereotypical zombie apocalypse survivors in the strong and aggressive female leader, mother with two daughters, one who is meek and scared and one who is cold and murderous, the silent and possibly psychotic loner and the paranoid and mistrusting older gent. Over time, Riley and Ted become part of the group though it takes a lot of effort for them to be trusted but, as with most things, the restaurant eventually falls and the group are left in the open and in danger. It is at the lowest point while attempting to escape the area that the army swoops in and saves them, bringing them to a safe zone at a nearby barracks where they are all well fed and looked after. The end right? Well, of course not. Not long after their arrival doubts begin to surface regarding the sanity of the military leader and, even more importantly, the growing source of all the protein rich fresh meat they are being served every day which seems to match the decline in numbers of people around them.
I like that the book is based in the UK, it feels more familiar and the lack of guns and therefore makeshift weapons, adds a lot to the early chapters thought this is lost when the military arrive. Riley and Ted are both complete idiots in the early stages acting like children when they are meant to be young men but Riley grows in depth as the book goes on. Ted doesn’t really though. I think he is meant to be some form of clown in the group but he is just a pain and I personally would have used him as bait very early on. There are huge similarities to Walking Dead story lines here in the crazy daughter who may be a threat to other weaker children, the barracks safe zone which reminded me of Walking Dead’s prison, the source of meat and even the Governor being represented by the army Captain but I do think that there is a lot of crossover in this genre anyway so it didn’t bother me too much.
I like the pace of the story. It spends little time on chit chat and seems to move from one epic disaster to another at breakneck speed. The characters that remain are good. Their story has built over 6 short novels and you feel like you have felt that growth. There is a lot in the way of moral dilemma for you to think on to and that is all coupled with a bucket load of blood, guts and well described protruding bones as well as characters that are killed off at speed.
Dead Days doesn’t really offer anything new to the zombie genre but is a good entry which I enjoyed, especially for free, and I intend to happily pay for the second Season.
Dead Days - Season 1 (Ryan Casey)